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A Journal of Italian Studies 

Volume 1 Q^^ 1979-80 
Department of Italian, UCLA 


A Journal of Italian Studies 

Volume 1 G^^ 1979-80 
Department of Italian, UCLA 

Editorial Board 

Clorinda Donato, Managing Editor, Italian, UCLA 
Betsy Emerick, Comparative Literature, UCLA 
Pier Massimo Forni, Italian, UCLA 
Craig Kelly, Romance Linguistics and Literature 

AdvisOry Board 

Franco Betti, Italian, UCLA 

Giovanni Cecchetti, Italian, UCLA 

Fredi Chiappelli, Italian, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, UCLA 

Marga Cottino-Jones, Italian, UCLA 

Franco Masciandaro, Italian, UCLA 

Pier-Maria Pasinetti, Italian and Comparative Literature, UCLA 

Edward Tuttle, Romance Linguistics, UCLA 

Carte Italiane, edited by graduate students of the University of California ispublished 
annually under the auspices of the Department of Italian, UCLA. Information regard- 
ing the submission of typed scripts is available from: 

University of California, Los Angeles 
Department of Italian, Royce Hall 340 
405 Hilgard Avenue 
Los Angeles, California 90024 
(213) 825-1940 

Cover design by Sergio Guarro 

Copyright 1980 by the Regents of the University of California 


Foreword v 

Law, Justice and Providence in Paradiso VI 1 

Craig Kelly 

Auerbach and Gramsci on Dante: Criticism and Ideology 9 

Betsy Emerick 

Folly in the Orlando Furioso: The Technique of Thematic 
and Stylistic Build-up 23 

Cynthia C. Craig 

Vico's De nostri temporis studiorum ratione and 
Eighteenth-Century English Thought 37 

Deborah Kier Birns 

Due passi manzoniani: Il rito del viaggio 49 

Pier Massimo Pomi 

Ph.D. Dissertations in Italian Studies at UCLA, 1970-80 61 


Carte Italiane is a graduate student journal which publishes articles 
in ali areas of Italian Studies including literature, art, history, and 
folklore in English and Italian. 

The editorial board is made up of graduate students from the 
departments of Italian, Comparative Literature and Romance Linguis- 
tics and Literature. Although ali the articles in the present issue are 
from UCLA, it is our intent to publish papers from graduate students 
on other UC campuses as well as campuses nationwide. 

As a service to our readers, we have provided a list of the Ph.D. 
dissertations written in Italian Studies at UCLA over the past ten 
years. The list will be updated with each successive issue. 

We intend to expand our format to include a hook review section in 
future issues. 

The cost of Carte Italiane is $6.00 to individuai and $9.00 to 
institutions. The support and cooperation of the advisory board and 
the generous financial aid of the Graduate Students Association, 
UCLA have been instrumentai in making the publication of this 
journal possible. 

Special thanks for this first volume are extended to Professor Marga 
Cottino-Jones for her encouragement and assistance. 



In De Monarchia, Dante employs the themes of law, justice, and 
providence in a syllogistic appeal for a universal emperor whose role it 
is to lead man via philosophy to the terrestrial paradise. The terrestrial 
paradise, man's tempora! goal, is neatly distinguished by Dante from 
man's spiritual goal, salvation, the attainment of which is under the 
guidance of the Pope. Since one of Dante's purposes in De Monarchia 
is to defend the emperor's sovereignty from encroachments by the 
papacy, the separation of man's secular and spiritual ends is greatly 
emphasized. Nevertheless, in closing Dante writes: 

Yet the truth upon this last issue is not to he narrowly interpreted as 
excluding the Roman Prince from ali subordination to the Roman 
Pontiff, since in a certain fashion our temporal happiness is subordi- 
nate to our eternai happiness. Caesar, therefore, is obliged to observe 
that reverence towards Peter which a first-born son owes to his father; 
so that when he is enlightened by the light of paternal grace he may the 
more powerfully enlighten the world, at the head of which he has been 
placed by the One who alone is ruler of ali things spiritual and tem- 

This acknowledgement of the subordination of temporal hap- 
piness to eternai happiness enticipates the Commedia, where the 
supernatural penetrates the terrestrial paradise and where the poet 
emphasizes the divine sources of terrestrial law, justice, and history. 


This is particularly evident in the sixth canto of Paradiso. 

The theme of law in Paradiso VI is immediately suggested by the 
name of the soul speaking to Dante: Justinian.Justinian's Corpus luris 
was the source of practically ali knowledge of Roman law in the Middle 
Ages. In Paradiso VI this great codification is introduced in terms of a 
religious mission: "per voler del primo amor ch'i' sento,/ d'entro le 
leggi trassi il troppo e '1 vano" (vv. 11-12). The "voler del primo amor" 
which inspires Justinian shows that if the subject matter of the Corpus 
luris is a compendium of positive law, its foundation is the divine will. 
The divine source of positive or promulgated law is a Thomistic idea: 

Laws that are humanly imposed are either just or injust. Now, if they 
are just, they bave the power of binding in conscience as a result of the 
eternai law from which they are derived, according to the text of 
Proverbs 8:15: "By Me kings reign and lawmakers decree justthings."^ 

To further emphasize the religious importance of bis works as 
Emperor, Justinian reveals that his conversion from Monophysitism 
to orthodoxy was prerequisite to his codification of laws: 

E prima ch'io all'ovra fossi attento, 

una natura in Cristo esser, non piue, 

credea, e di tal fede era contento; 
ma il benedetto Agapito, che fue 

sommo pastore, alla fede sincera 

mi dirizzo' con le parole sue. 
Io li credetti; e ciò' che 'n sua fede era, 

vegg'io or chiaro si', come tu vedi 

ogni contradizione e falsa e vera. 

{Paradiso VI, 13-21) 

In this passage the word/e^e appears three times in alternate lines 
with a regular rhythm: fede era, fede sincera, fede era, and with a 
progression of meaning that expresses Justinian's own spiritual pro- 
gress (v. 15,/e<^e=heresy; v. 17,/^^e=thetrue faithpresentedasagoal; 
v. 19, /^<^e=the true faith possessed by Justinian).^ This rhythm and 
progression show that Justinian's power to carry out his great secular 
task is the result of a graduai spiritual transformation. It is significant 
that in converting from Monophysitism to orthodoxy Justinian 
accepts the unity of the human and the divine in Christ, a unity that is 


relevant to the dose connection between Justinian's earthly task and 
the divine will. 

The necessary chronological order of first religious conversion, then 
Corpus luris is stressed again in Justinian's phrase "Tosto che con la 
Chiesa mossi i piedi" (v. 22). At the same time, this image of "walking 
with the Church" evokes Dante's experience in Eden when he joins 
Statius and Beatrice in accompanying the "benedetto carco." 

La bella donna che mi trasse al varco 
e Stazio e io seguitavan la rota 
che fé' l'orbita sua con minore arco. 

(Purgatorio XXXII, 28-30) 

The presence of the carro of the Church in the terrestrial paradise is a 
notable shift from the separation of the two paradises in De Monar- 
chia. Justinian's "Tosto che con la Chiesa mossi i piedi" refers not only 
to bis own conversion but also alludes to the most vivid symbol in the 
Commedia of the interpenetration of eternai and temporal felicitas. 
This interpenetration is essential if Justinian's Corpus luris is to be 
seen as a manifestation of divine will. 

Terrestrial justice, like positive law, is shown in Paradiso VI to bave 
a divine source. Justinian explains to Dante the principle of the 
organization of Paradise, saying that different souls enjoy different 
measures of beatitude but that the souls in the "lesser" spheres feel no 
sense of "nequizia," which would be impossible in Paradise. Justinian 
employs a musical metaphor: 

Diverse voci fanno dolci note; 
cosi' diversi scanni in nostra vita 
rendon dolce armonia tra queste rote. 

(Paradiso VI, 124-126) 

According to Aristotle,^ justice is defined as the division of goods 
according to the nature and merit of the recipients. The division in 
Paradise is perfect, and celestial justice is "dolce armonia." True 
terrestrial justice must reflect this harmony. The primary contempor- 
ary example of injustice was, for Dante, the Guelph-Ghibelline strug- 
gle. If we divide the sixth canto of Paradiso into three parts (part one: 
Justinian identifies himself; part two: the history of the Roman 
Empire; part three: the introduction of the souls in the heaven of 


Mercury), we find that invectives against theGuelphs andGhibellines 
serve as transitions between parts one and two and between parts two 
and three. The transitions themselves are related by the common use 
of the verbs appropriare and opporre: 

perche' tu veggi con quanta ragione 
si move contr'al sacrosanto segno 
e chi 1 s'appropria e chi a lui s'oppone. 

(Paradiso VI, 31-33) 

L'uno al pubblico segno i gigli gialli 

oppone, e l'altro appropria quello a parte, 
si' ch'e' forte a veder chi più' si falli. 

(Paradiso VI, 100-102) 

The verbs appropriare and opporre indicate how the Ghibellines and 
the Guelphs violate Aristotle's notion of justice. The Ghibellines are 
guilty of injustice through lack of measure because they usurp for their 
own particular faction an imperiai power which is meant to be univer- 
sa!. The Guelphs, on the other band, failing to see that the papacy is 
not the proper recipient of temporal power, oppose the imperiai 
sovereignty which they should recognize. The injustice of the Ghibel- 
lines and Guelphs contrasts not only with the "dolce armonia" of 
Paradise, but also with the harmony between the Holy Roman 
Emperor and the Church described by Justinian at the end of bis 
digression on Roman history: 

E quando il dente langobardo morse 
la santa Chiesa, sotto le sue ali 
Carlo Magno, vincendo, la soccorse. 

(vv. 94-96) 

Another element that links terrestrial justice to divine justice is the 
concept of vendetta. Here, however, we see how the temporal-eternal 
connection can elude human understanding: 

che' la viva giustizia che mi spira, 

li concedette, in man a quel ch'i' dico, 

gloria di far vendetta alla sua ira. 
Or qui t'ammira in ciò' ch'io ti replico: 

poscia con Tito a far vendetta corse 

della vendetta del peccato antico. 

{Paradiso VI, 88-93) 


The scollar justice of Christ's crucifixion is tied to the cosmic justice of 
the redemption. (Likewise in Purgatorio XXI, 6: "e condoleami alla 
giusta vendetta.") But how do we explain the third vendetta, Titus' 
destruction of Jerusalem? The problem goes unresolved until the next 
canto, where Beatrice solves the dilemma he making a distinction 
between Christ's two natures (which recalls Justinian's heresy and 
conversion). This is one of those aspects of justice which can only he 
illuminated by revelation. Justinian himself emphasizes the often 
enigmatic nature of divine justice when he tells Dante "Or qui t'am- 
mira in ciò' ch'io ti replico" (v. 91). 

In sum, Justinian in Paradiso VI is expressing the necessary connec- 
tion between temporal and eternai justice. This union is stated by 
Dante himself in the sphere of Jupiter: 

O dolce stella, quali e quante gemme 
mi dimostraro che nostra giustizia 
effetto sia del ciel che tu ingemme.^ 

{Paradiso XVIII, 115-117) 

The concept of vendetta brings us to a third theme: providence. The 
giuste vendette make up the core of Dante's providential view of 
Roman history. In De Monarchia II, xii, 1-5, Dante establishes a 
connection between Christ's death and resurrection and Roman his- 
tory in order to prove a politicai point: that Rome had necessarily to be 
the center of the Universal Empire. In Paradiso VI, however. Dante 
uses the same connection to celebrate the political-religious harmony 
that Rome's history exhibits. Dante the "epic poet" takes up where 
Virgil left off, adding to Roman history the Christian-providential 
elements that his maestro could not know. 

With respect to secular history, Justinian's story of the flight of the 
eagle in Paradiso VI completes the geographical progression that 
begins with Florence {Inferno VI), expands to Italy {Purgatorio VI), 
and finally includes the Roman Empire {Paradiso VI). But the real 
progress made in Justinian's presentation of history is not in geo- 
graphy, but in the theme of providence. This is most emphatically 
expressed when "the will of Rome" is shown to be in conjunction with 
the divine will: 


Poi, presso al tempo che tutto '1 ciel volle 
redur lo mondo a suo modo sereno, 
Cesare per voler di Roma il tolle. 

(vv. 55-58) 

For Caesar as for Justinian, it is the divine will which sets in motion a 
great secular task. This joining of wills in the providential view of 
history perfectly expresses Dante's ideal of political-religious har- 
mony. The theme of providence appears in both De Monarchia and 
Paradiso VI, but whereas in the former work Dante employs the 
spiritual element (Christ's entry into history) to justify the temporal 
(the legitimacy of the Universa! Empire), in Paradiso VI Dante uses 
the temporal to glorify the eternai. This concentration on the trans- 
cendant is underlined by the Constant flight imagery in the canto: 
"l'aquila," "le sacre penne," "il volo di Cesare," and so on. The 
Empire's course, because it is in accordance with providence, is indeed 
"above the earth," and this harmony with providence distinguishes "il 
volo di Cesare" from the "folle volo" of Ulysses. 

Having discussed the themes of law, justice, and providence, we 
must turn to one of the souls introduced by Justinian in the sphere of 
Mercury: Romeo da Villanova, the "solitary just man," falsely accused 
of the mismanagement of court funds. Romeo is presented as a 
pilgrim: "Romeo, persona umile e peregrina." The lack of apprecia- 
tion of Romeo's talents, the false accusations and Romeo's subsequent 
exile, are clear evocations of Dante's own plight. This is not the first 
autobiographical element in this canto. If Dante resembles Romeo in 
being a pilgrim and an exile, he also resembles Justinian in having 
undergone a spiritual transformation. The accomplishments of both 
Justinian ("E prima ch'io all'ovra fossi attento") and Romeo ("fu 
l'ovra grande e bella e mal gradita") are referred to as opere, which 
invites comparison with Dante's literary production. By associating 
both Justinian and Romeo with himself. Dante identifies with the 
political-religious harmony manifested in Justinian's work while at 
the same time expressing a lament for bis own situation of exile, 
which shows that the ideal of harmony is not yet realized. As Aristotle 
said, in a perverse community the just man is a bad citizen. Dante, like 
Romeo, was in a situation where good citizenship was impossible. 


Nevertheless, Paradiso VI ends on a hopeful note, revealing even 
more clearly the importance of Romeo's role in this canto: 

e se 1 mondo sapesse il cor ch'elli ebbe 
mendicando sua vita a frusto a frusto, 
assai lo loda, e più' lo loderebbe. 

(vv. 140-142) 

Here Dante is affirming, through the example of Romeo, the valueof 
individuai justice and individuai salvation, which can exist even in an 
unjust society. The affirmation of individuai salvation is not simply a 
desperate response to the failure of the Empire to materialize. Por 
Dante the ideal of the Empire remains, and the addition of the concept 
of individuai salvation is a step forward. That concept was lacking in 
De Monarchia. 

From De Monarchia, a philosophic tract that neatly distinguishes 
man s tempora! and eternai ends. Dante moves in the Commedia to an 
expression of the divine sources of terrestrial law and justice, and the 
subordination of human history to providence. The hint of the inter- 
penetration of divine and terrestrial that we find in the closing lines of 
De Monarchia is fully developed in Paradiso VI. Just as the sacred 
chariot enters the earthly paradise, so providence and divine justice 
and law invest their temporal representatives. At the same time 
personal salvation is affirmed, regardless of the temporal circumstan- 
ces. Por Dante the concept of the Universal Empire has found its 
limits, but has become more profound. 


1. Dante Alighieri, Monarchy and Letters, translated by Donald Nicheli (London: 
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1954), p. 94. 

2. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summu Theologica II-II, 96, 4. 

3. Besides/é'd'é', Dante uses several other words three times in Paradiso VI: sai(\\. 
37-43); incontro (w. 44-45); vendetta (vv. 90-93); and giustizia (vv. 88, 105, 121). 

4. As Etienne Gilson argues in Dante et la philosophie, Dante was greatly influ- 
enced by Aristotle's discussion of justice, which appears in the fifth book of the Ethics. 

y Here eie/ stands for ali of Paradise, not just one sphere. 



Alighieri, Dante. De Monarchia, in Tutte le opere, a cura di Predi Chiapelli. 

Milan: Mursia, 1965. 

Monarchy and Letters, translated by Donald NichoU. 

London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1954. 
Aquinas, St. Thomas. Summa Theologica, translated by the English Dominican 

Province, London, Burns, 1916. 
Aristotle. Ethics. London: Penquin, 1953 

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy. Vols. I-IV. Image Books, 1963- 
D'Arcy, M.C. The Meaning and Matter of History. New York: Noonday Press, 

Entreves, A.P. d'. Dante as a Politicai Thinker. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 


Gilson, Etienne. Dante et la philosophie. Paris: Vrin, 1939. 
Kantorwicz, E. The King's Tivo Bodies. Princeton, 1957. 
Masciandaro, Franco. La problematica del tempo nella Commedia. Ravenna: 

Longo, 1976. 
Padoan, Giorgio. Introduzione a Dante. Florence: Sansoni, 1975. 
Uilmann, Walter. A History of Politicai Thought: The Middle Ages. London: 

Penguin, 1965. 





With its dramatic encounters, vivid characterizations, and an intrig- 
uing mixture of the personal, the historical-political, and the meta- 
physical, the tenth Canto of the Inferno has caught the imagination of 
many scholars and critics, among them Erich Auerbach and Antonio 
Gramsci. Both men took up their discussions of Canto X under 
extreme and unusual circumstances which profoundly affected their 
conclusions. And considering the diversity of these conclusions, it is 
interesting to note the similarities in the situations in which each man 
found himself. 

Auerbach had been studying Dante for a long time and in a particu- 
lar vein when he came to write the essay on Farinata and Cavalcante 
which forms a key chapter in his hook, Mimesii. In fact, in the 
Epilogue to the hook, he states that "Dante's assertion that in the 
Commedia he presented true reality" was one of the starting points for 
the investigation of the representation of reality in literature which 
culminated in the writing of Mimesis.^ 

Auerbach wrote the hook in Istanbul, where he had been forced into 
exile by World War II. His feeling of isolation was strong both in a 
physical and in a scholarly sense: "the hook was written during the war 
and at Istanbul, where the libraries are not well equipped for European 
studies. International Communications were impeded; I had to dis- 
pense with almost ali periodicals" {Mimeiis, p. 557). The uncertainty 


of the circumstances of the writing of the hook cast even its future imo 
doubt. "Nothing now remains but to find him — to find the reader, 
that is. I hope that my study will reach its readers — both my friends of 
former years, if they are stili alive, as well as ali the others for whom it 
was intended" (ibid.).This then is no ordinary criticai study. Auerbach 
States his true purpose and the true meaning of the hook in his last 
sentence, "And may it contribute to bringing together again those 
whose love for our western history has serenely persevered" (ibid.). 
Love for western history informs this work and is its function. In a 
time when the world was in chaos and history itself in doubt, Auerbach 
was one who wrote to save something from the chaos. 

Through his writing, Gramsci, too, was seeking to save something 
from chaos and an even more profound isolation. In the autumn of 
1926, when he was 35 years old, Gramsci was arrested by the Italian 
Fascist government. In 1928, after a trial, he was sentenced to more 
than 20 years in prison. In precarious health ali his life, Gramsci did 
not survive his prison sentence. At the end of 1933, he was transferred 
to a clinic in Formia where his room was transformed into a prison 
celi. Ultimately he was granted provisionai liberty and moved to a 
clinic in Rome in 1935. He died there on 27 Aprii 1937, six days after 
his shortened sentence had expired. During this imprisonment.when 
his health and the authorities permitted, Gramsci wrote what have 
been published as / quaderni del carcere. At the beginning of the 
project he outlined his purpose in a letter to his sister-in-law: "Sono 
assillato (è questo fenomeno proprio dei carcerati, penso) da questa 
idea: che bisognerebbe far qualcosa 'fur ewig', secondo una complessa 
concezione di Goethe.. ..Insomma, vorrei, secondo un piano prestabi- 
lito, occuparmi intensamente e sistematicamente di qualche soggetto 
che mi assorbisse e centralizzasse la mia vita interiore."^ Among the 
subjects which Gramsci later listed as topics for study was the position 
of Cavalcante in the structure and art of the Divine Comedy.'' 

We have two versions of Gramsci's ideas on Canto X, one in the 
Quaderni and one in a letter to his sister-in-law {LC, pp. 490-3). 
Neither is a polished essay such as Auerbach wrote. As with ali of his 
prison writings, those on Canto X are fragmentary. Because òf his 
health and the restrictions of prison life, he was unable to work 
regularly. His access to the texts and articles he needed was sporadic. 


and he also feared censorship. Thus, he wrote in phrases, skipping 
from one topic to another, jotting down notes, outlining arguments. 
Sometimes he returned to a topic years later and polished the frag- 
ments imo a more organized form, but much of the material never 
reached even a second draft state. Beyond the practical reasons for his 
fragmentary, incomplete style, however, lies a deeper reason which is 
linked to his very purpose in writing. Gramsci was writing"furewig," 
but he was also writing to prove to himself that he was alive and that, 
against ali physical and politicai evidence, he had a future. As long as 
the essays were not finished, the dialogue with himself and with the 
world continued. His biographer, Giuseppe Fiori, put it this way: "For 
Gramsci, this work became life itself: these memoranda and brief 
notes, these sketches of the first germ of ideas, these tentative ideas 
left open for endless development and elaboration, were ali his way of 
continuing the revolutionary struggle, his way of remaining relatedto 
the world and active in the society of men.""* 

For both Auerbach and Gramsci, their writing at this time was a 
kind of life-line; it was a monument to their struggles and a proof of 
existence. Both the texts under consideration, Auerbach's essay in 
Mimesis and Gramsci's notes on Dante, take on new meaning when 
seen in terms of the circumstances which affected their writing. 

Auerbach's chapter on Canto X begins with a long quotation taken 
from the section of the Canto where Farinata appears, through the 
point where Cavalcante sinks back in despair, and ending where 
Farinata again picks up his conversation with Dante. Auerbach sees 
the structure of the Canto as a series of encounters and interruptions: 
first, Dante is seen with Virgil; next comes Farinata's interruption and 
Dante's alarm, continuing with their conversation; this in turn is 
interrupted by Cavalcante's appearance, his exchange with Dante and 
disappearance; and finally the renewal of the conversation between 
Farinata and Dante. The first point Auerbach makes about the passage 
is that through their actions and words, both Farinata and Cavalcante 
show that although they are dead and in Hell, they stili bave the same 
personalities they had while on earth. By the manner of his sudden 
appearance, "Farinata's moral stature is developed, larger than life as 
it were, and unaffected by death and the pains of Hell. He is stili the 
same man he was in his lifetime" {Mimesis, p. 177). When Cavalcante 


talks with Dante about his son, "he breaks into anxious questions 
which show chat he too continues to have the same character and the 
same passions that he had in his lifetime, though they are very 
different from Farinata's" (ibid.). This observation is one key to 
Auerbach's reading of Canto X and in fact to Mimesis as a whole, but 
he drops it for the moment and continues with a minute styHstic 
analysis of the language used in each of the interruptions. 

His conclusion is that Dante mixed levels of styles and linguistic 
devices to an astonishing degree, not simply foUowing one style with 
another, but using "such an immeasurably greater stock of forms, he 
[expressed] the most varied phenomena and subjects with such 
immeasurably superior assurance and firmness, that we come to the 
conclusion that this man used his language to discover the world 
anew" (Mimesis, p. 183). According to Auerbach, Dante represents a 
sort of turning point in the history of the representation of reality 
because of his technique of mixing the sublime with the trivial or the 
grotesque, and his way of raising what would, in the antique sense, be 
considered low to a sublime level. As Auerbach says: 

nowhere could one find so clear an instance of the antagonism of the 
two traditions — that of antiquity, with the principia of the separation 
of styles, and that of the Christian era, with its mingling of styles — as 
in Dante's powerful temperament, which is conscious of both because 
its aspiration toward the tradition of antiquity does not imply for it the 
possibility of abandoning the other; nowhere does mingling of styles 
come so dose to violation of ali style (Mimesis, p. 185). 

Auerbach's insistence on the importance of the mixing of styles 
reveals part of his view of the function of literature and language. If 
Dante is violating style, it is style in the ancient, limited sense of the 
term. According to Auerbach, exactly because he violates ancient 
canons of style Dante succeeds in capturing a reality in language. Only 
by writing as he does can he embrace the complete range of human 
experience and thus approach with language the historical, social, 
politicai 'reality' which is out there. Auerbach believes in the ability 
and necessity of the power of language to capture historical reality in 
ali of its dimensions. As he says of Dante, "this man used his language 
to discover the world anew." What Auerbach values in Dante is his 


achievement in having captured, or imitateci, the world in ali its 
infinite aspects. Dante's mixing of literary levels of style is cruciai to 
the 'truth' of his representation of that reality. 

At this point in his essay Auerbach returns to the discussion of the 
characters of Farinata and Cavalcante and their presence in Hell. For 
Auerbach, the unique aspect of Dante's presentation of these souls is 
his handling of the paradoxical situation of having to present 'real' 
characters in a realm where there is no time, no change, no sensory 
experience. What Dante emphasizes, without altering the essentially 
timeless nature of Hell, is a strong sense of the individuality of the 
characters. With Farinata and Cavalcante, thecontrast in their person- 
alities and behavior is very strong, especially since they are in the same 
circle of Hell and suffering the same punishment. Yet, Farinata 
remains the completely politicai man who rises up, "com'avesse l'in- 
ferno a gran dispitto,"^ and Cavalcante is retiring, only motivated to 
action by his great love for his son. 

Their differing attitudes toward their common fate distinguish 
Farinata and Cavalcante and these attitudes are distillations of their 
characters on earth. As Auerbach sees it: 

earthly life has ceased so that it cannot change or grow, whereas the 
passions and inclinations which animated it stili persist without aver 
being released in action; there results as it were a tremendous concen- 
tration. We behold an intensified image of the essence of their being, 
fixed for ali eternity in gigantic dimensions, behold it in a purity and 
distinctness which could never for one moment bave been possible 
during their lives upon earth (Mimesis, p. 192). 

The significance of this union of the earthly and the heavenly 
realms through intensification-realization relates to Dante's concept 
of history. Beyond simply embracing the totality of historical reality 
through his use of levels of language. Dante has taken "earthly histo- 
ricity imo his beyond" {Mimesis, p. 193). Farinata and Cavalcante and 
the other beings in the Commedia do not change by virtue of being 
transferred to the other world. Instead, their existences there are 
manifestations and intensifications of their earthly existences. So that 
in Hell: 


Farinata is greater, stronger, and nobler than ever, for never in his life 
had he had such an opportunity to prove his scout heart; . . . The same 
hopeless futility in the continuance of his earthly being is displayed by 
Cavalcante; it is net likely that in the course of his earthly existence he 
ever felt his faith in the spirit of man, his love for the sweetness of light 
and for his son so profoundly, or expressed it so arrestingly, as now, 
when it is ali in vain (Mimesis, pp. 192-3). 

What this means is that, for Dante, life after death is a continuation or 
fulfillment of life on earth and that the telos of human, earthly history 
lies in this realization of God's pian, not only in the sense of the 
approaching millenium, but in the sense that every earthly event is 
connected to its heavenly aspect in a vertical as well as horizontal way 
(Mimesis, p. 194). 

This is Auerbach's concept of figura. Basically a Christian idea, it 
Comes from the way the Old Testament was reinterpreted in the light 
of the New Testament so that ali the Old Testament personages were 
seen as 'figures' of New Testament personages. The key to Auerbach's 
use of this idea is his stressing of the fact that: 

a figurai schema permits both its poles — the figure and the fulfillment — 
to retain the characteristics of concrete historical reality, in contradistinc- 
tion to what obtains with symbolic or allegorical personifications, so that 
figure and fulfillment — although the one "signifies' the other — bave a 
significance which is not incompatible with their being real {Mimesis, p. 

According to Auerbach, it is by means of his figurai presentation that 
Dante captures the historical 'reality' of the Christian universe in the 
Commedia and does so with a full sense of its tragic nature. The reality 
of Farinata, Cavalcante, and the other souls in the Commedia lies in 
their status as tragic, sublime individuai, damned or saved, existing in 
a history which embraces ali levels and ali time even into eternity. 

This view of history and of its representation in literature is a high 
point for Auerbach. Obviously he, too, believes in history as a reality 
with a telos and in the function of literature being to imitate that 
reality, thereby preserving history and individuai man's place in it. 

When we read Dante, says Auerbach: 


we experience an emotion which is concerned with human beings and 
not directly with the divine order in which they bave found their 
fulfillment. Their eternai position in the divine order is something of 
which we are only conscious as a setting whose irrevocabiUty can but 
serve to heighten the effect of their humanity, preserved for us in ali its 
force. The result is a direct experience of life which overwhelms 
everything else, a comprehension of human realities which spreads as 
widely and variously as it goes profoundly to the very roots of our 
emotions, an illumination of man's impulses and passions which leads 
US to share in them without restraint and indeed to admire their variety 
and their greatness {Mimesis, pp. 201-2). 

As Auerbach points out, the effect of the power of Dante's realism is to 
turn the attention to the individuai and away from the Christian 
realization of the figure in the beyond. Thus, Dante is both the high 
point of Christian figurai realism and the beginning of a seculariza- 
tion. What remains for Auerbach when the figural-Christian view of 
the universe breaks down is history in the sense of the individuai 
working out bis destiny in terms of the community. This, too, Dante 
has captured. His characters, such as Farinata and Cavalcante, exist in 
terms of their human reality. One perceives them through their pasts, 
their memories, and their development. 

The value of Dante's achievement for Auerbach lies in the accuracy 
of his representation of this reality. In Dante, "we are given to see, in 
the realm of timeless being, the history of man's inner life and 
unfolding" (ibid.). This is thefunctionof the word and ofliterature for 
Auerbach; to imitate, to represent, and, above ali, to preserve and 
promote this view of the individuai in history in ali its complexity, 
variety and depth. Auerbach has defined his views this way: "The 
general image which seems to me capable of representation, is the 
view of a historic process; something like a drama which contains no 
theory but a paradigmatic exposition of human fate. Its subject, in the 
broadest sense, is Europe; I try to seize upon this in a number of 
individuai criticai attempts."'' Auerbach does this in an evangelistic 
way. He is not merely describing the representation of reality as it has 
evolved through history, but proselytizing for a particular type of 
representation of a particular reality. Auerbach values in Dante a view 
of history and a use of language to promote that view which coincide 


with his own concept of the historic process and its representation in 
literature. Both in methodology and in conclusions, Gramsci differs 
from Auerbach's definitions of history and reality. 

Gramsci's comments on Canto X in the Quaderni begin with a series 
of notes: "Quistione su 'struttura e poesia' nella Divina Commedia, 
secondo Benedetto Croce e Luigi Russo. Lettura di Vincenzo Morello 
come corpus vile. Lettura di Fedele Romani su Farinata. De Sanctis. 
Quistione della 'rappresentazione indiretta' e delle didascalie nel 
dramma: le didascalie hanno un valore artistico.'* contribuiscono alla 
rappresentazione dei caratteri . . . "' These questions and remarks 
already indicate both the direction of Gramsci's interest in Canto X 
and a basic methodological difference between his work and Auerb- 
ach's. From the first it is clear that Gramsci sees himself as involved in 
a dialectic with other critics of Dante and that his observations take the 
form of an answer to other readings of the Canto. Auerbach never 
mentions other readings. 

Gramsci's main disagreement with other critics lies in theemphasis 
they had given to Farinata. For example, Francesco De Sanctis, as 
reported by Gramsci, "notò l'asprezza contenuta nel canto per il fatto 
che Farinata d'un tratto muta carattere: dopo essere stato poesia 
diventa struttura.. .idi da Cicerone a Dante" (LVN, p. 34). That is, 
"Farinata, dopo essere stato rappresentato eroicamente nella prima 
parte dell'episodio, diventa nell'ultima parte un pedagogo" (LC, p. 
490) . This mistaken emphasis on Farinata's place in the Canto allowed 
a reading such as De Sanctis' with its judgment that Farinata, in 
Crocean terms, changes from "poesia" to "struttura." Gramsci coun- 
ters this view by stressing the importance of both Cavalcante and 
Farinata to the Canto and, in order to prove his points, he reads the 
Canto as a whole, something Auerbach neglects to do. 

In the section of the Quaderni entitled, "Il dramma di Cavalcante," 
Gramsci explains his reading. Cavalcante's torment lies in the fact that 
he can see into the future, where his beloved son will be dead, he knows 
the past where his son was alive, but he cannot know the present; 
therefore at every moment he is tortured by uncertainty over whether 
his son lives or not. When he asks Dante why Guido is not 
accompanying him through Hell, Dante replies using the verb 'ebbe' 
in the passato remoto. Cavalcante then fears the worst and continues 


to question. When Dante hesitates in answering, Cavalcante is 
convinced that Guido must be dead and, in despair, bis doubt 
unhappily resolved, Cavalcante disappears. Gramsci makes the point 
that in this passage, Dante, "suggerisce [il dramma] al lettore, non lo 
rappresenta; egli dà al lettore gli elementi perché il dramma sia 
ricostruito, e questi elementi sono dati dalla struttura" {LVN, p. 35). 

In the dramatic presentation of the scene, Gramsci distinguishes 
three parts: the appearance of Cavalcante on bis knees and humble in 
contrast to the heroic man of politics. Farinata; the conversation with 
Dante wbere in bis tbird question, "non fiere li occhi suoi lo dolce 
lume?" {Inf. X, 69) Cavalcante reveals "tutta la [sua] tenerezza 
paterna...; [e] la generica 'vita' umana é vista in una condizione 
concreta, nel godimento della luce, che i dannati e i morti hanno 
perduto" (LVN, p. 35); and the resumption of the conversation with 
Farinata wbo, altbougb be is Guido's fatber-in-law, shows no interest 
in wbether be is alive or dead. Gramsci's reading stresses the fact that 
it is tbrough contrast that Dante develops the characters of Cavalcante 
and Farinata. Bach enhances and enriches the presentation of the 
other. Read this way, then, Farinata's explanation of the damned souls' 
ability to see into the future but not to know the present, comes in 
response to Dante's question. And Dante asks not merely for 
information but because he was so struck by bis encounter with 
Cavalcante. Gramsci concludes: "[Dante] vuole che sia sciolto il nodo 
che gli impedì di rispondere a Cavalcante; egli si sente in colpa dinanzi 
a Cavalcante. Il brano strutturale non è solo struttura, dunque, é anche 
poesia, é un elemento necessario al dramma che si é svolto" (LVN, p. 

Gramsci amplifies this point in another note entitled "Il disdegno di 
Guido," referring to the line wbere Dante says to Cavalcante, "Da me 
stesso non vegno:/ colui ch'attende là, per qui mi mena/ forse cui 
Guido vostro ebbe a disdegno" (Inf. X, 61-3). Gramsci again attacks 
the problem in terms of a dialectic with other critics. For Gramsci, the 
important word of the passage is again 'ebbe.' "Su 'ebbe' cade l'accento 
'estetico' e 'drammatico' del verso ed esso è l'origine del dramma di 
Cavalcante, interpretato nelle didascalie di Farinata: e c'è la 'catarsi'; 
Dante si corregge, toglie dalla pena Cavalcante, cioè interrompe la sua 
punizione in atto" (LVN, p. 38). Again, Gramsci emphasizes the 


necessity to see ali parts of the Canto as working together forming a 
poetic whole. And Gramsci reiterates that Dante's method of 
presenting Cavalcante's drama with expressive techniques which 
serve to invite the reader's participation in the drama, is due not to any 
lack of ability to present the drama directly, but for reasons of 
expression which change through the ages. Dante intentionally used 
the means he had at hand. 

Gramsci's reading of Canto X seems to make a needed correction in 
the emphasis other critics had placed on Farinata, assuming Gramsci's 
representation of their positions is correct. His approach is a much 
more scientific one than Auerbach's since it includes an analysis of the 
Canto as a whole, with its formai and structural elements. Auerbach 
and Gramsci do come to similar conclusions about the equal 
importance of Farinata and Cavalcante to the meaning of the Canto 
and the way Dante develops the characters by contrast with each other, 
but Gramsci nowhere touches on the mixing of linguistic and stylistic 
levels which Auerbach is so interested in. Nor does he write about 
Dante's 'realism.' And Auerbach's concept of figura with its 
implications for a theory of history and his concept of the place of 
literature in regard to history are very different from Gramsci's 

For Gramsci, literary criticism was a part of the politicai struggle he 
was continuing to engagé in even in prison. The very structure of his 
criticism reflects this concept of struggle. Gramsci had watched the 
Fascists come to power in Italy and had been imprisoned for his anti- 
Fascist positions. While in prison he was writing in an attempt to 
understand and explain the Fascist takeover. 

Gramsci considered it his task to delineate the conditions for a future 
victory on the part of the working class rather than to uncover the 
reasons for the immediate defeat: and he maintained that these 
conditions could he found only in the historical process — that is to say, 
through a Marxist analysis of the real forces operative in national and 
international life, an analysis made precisely with the idea of 
transforming capitalist society.^ 

Gramsci's notes on the Canto are a small step in his analysis. 

Gramsci's concept of the place of literature and literary criticism in 
the historical process becomes even clearer when one reads his 


remarks on another critic, one he did not respect as he respected De 
Sanctis and Croce. Vincenzo Morello gave a paper on Canto X at the 
Casa di Dante in Rome on 25 Aprii 1925, which was later published. In 
his notes on Morello's article, Gramsci accuses him of having read the 
Canto only superficially and of completely misinterpreting the 
relationship between Farinata and Cavalcante. Morello claims that 
Canto X is "per eccellenza politico" (LVN, p. 45), something Gramsci 
says he does not demonstrate, nor couid he because, "il canto decimo é 
politico come politica è tutta la Divina Commedia, ma non è politico 
per eccellenza" (ibid.). Basically Gramsci attacks Morello for being a 
bad critic and scholar, saying it doesn't take much to demonstrate his 
ineptitude and uselessness. He states that Morello's writing "é 
strabilante da parecchi punti di vista e mostra quanto sia deficiente la 
disciplina intelletuale del Morello" (LVN, p. 40), and later refers to 
Morello and those like him as "ruffiani intellettuali" (LVN, p. 45). 
Then, with heavy sarcasm, Gramsci asks: 

Ma intanto la sua conferenza è stata tenuta alla Casa di Dante romana, 
da chi è diretta questa Casa di Dante della città eterna.^ Anche la Casa di 
Dante e i suoi dirigenti contano nulla? E se contano nulla perchè la 
grande cultura non li elimina.'' E come é stata giudicata la conferenza dai 
dantisti? Ne ha parlato il Barbi, nelle sue rassegne degli 'Studi 
Danteschi' per mostrarne le deficienze, ecc.? Eppoi, piace poter 
prendere per il bavero un uomo come [Morello] e servirsene da palla 
per un giuoco solitario del calcio (ibid.). 

Here, in a bitterly humorous tone, Gramsci alludes to several key 
points of his philosophy which underlie his writing about Dante and 
ali his writing in the Quaderni. 

He devoted a large part of that work to analyzing the position of the 
intellectuals, particularly what he called the "organic" intellectuals 
who were to rise out of the working class to direct and organize the 
group without losing their "organic" connection with their class. In 
very simplified terms his theory states that: 

the proletariat can be victorious and guarantee the stability of its new 
order only to the extent to which it wins over the other exploited classes 
to its cause, and above ali the peasant class. But the peasant class is 
integrated into an historical bloc' where middle-class intellectuals bave 
the function of disseminating a bourgeois Weltanschauung, a concep- 


tion of lifc elaborateci by the great intellectuals of the ruling class. In 
order to detach the peasants from the landowners within this structure, 
it is necessary to encourage the formation of a new stratum of intellec- 
tuals who reject the bourgeois Weltanschauung.'^ 

Compounding this problem in Italy was the fact that there was no 
national consciousness among the people. Italian culture and literature 
were cosmopolitan, not 'national-popular.' What was necessary was 
the creation of a popular literature which wouid seize and form the 
imaginations of the people and the task of the intellectuals was to 
create this national-popular culture. Gramsci writes: 

La bellezza' non basta: ci vuole un determinato contenuto intellettuale 
e morale che sia l'espressione elaborata e compiuta delle aspirazioni più 
profonde di un determinato pubblico, cioè della nazione-popolo in una 
certa fase del suo sviluppo storico. La letteratura deve essere nello stesso 
tempo elemento attuale di civiltà e opera d'arte {LVN, p. 81). 

What Gramsci maintained was that the intellectuals on ali levels of 
society were the key to the success or failure of a change in society since 
they operated in civil society, meaning the whole complex of social, 
cultural, and politicai organizations and institutions in a society. 
" pictured as an equilibrium between civil society and 
politicai society — more specifically stili, as an equilibrium between 
'leadership' or 'direction' based on consent, and 'domination' basedon 
coercion in the broadest sense."'° Thus the importance of literature 
and literary criticism comes from its function as a tool for both 
understanding the balance that exists among the various forces in 
society and as a means of using the power of culture to maintain the 

To return to Gramsci's writing on Dante, especially bis comments 
on Morello's article, we can see how bis criticism works in the light of 
his philosophy. His rigorous analysis is an attempt to come to the most 
accurate understanding of how Dante's writing functions, but in a 
disinterested way. His remarks in a letter about whether his son will 
love Dante are illuminating bere: 

ora prevedi che egli leggerà Dante addirittura con amore. Io spero che 
ciò non avverrà mai, pur essendo molto contento che a Delio piaccia 
Puskin e tutto ciò che si riferisce alla vita creativa che sbozzola le sue 


prime forme. D'altronde, chi legge Dante con amore? I professori 
rimminchioniti che si fanno delle religioni di un qualche poeta o 
scrittore e ne celebrano degli strani riti filologici. Io penso che una 
persona intelligente e moderna deve leggere i classici in generale con un 
certo 'distacco', cioè solo per i loro valori estetici, mentre T'amore' 
implica adesione al contenuto ideologico della poesia; si ama il 'proprio' 
poeta, si 'ammira' l'artista 'in generale'. L'ammirazione estetica può 
essere accompagnata da un certo disprezzo 'civile', come nel caso di 
Marx per Goethe {LC, p. 440). 

For Gramsci, the critic's or intellectual's task is to examine literary 
texts in terms of their function in a social-political process. Thus the 
'text' includes the critic's dialogues with other intellectuals and the 
circumstances in which these dialogues take place. Gramsci's bitter 
questions about the paper given at the Casa di Dante, the circumstan- 
ces of its acceptance coupled with his own criticisms of it show his 
awareness of a definition of text which is far broader than a typological 

In Auerbach's work we have a powerful attempt to use language to 
promote a particular view of reality and history. His article on Dante 
is, on first reading, far more impressive than Gramsci's notes, for he 
convincingly uses language to enforce his view of reality and history on 
the reader. The interest Gramsci ultimately holds, by contrast, is in his 
attempt to come to terms with a new definition of language, literature, 
and criticai activity; one which does not imitate, represent or interpret 
an existing reality, but one which participates in that reality, taking its 
meaning from that reality as it at the same time creates it. 


1. Erich Auerbach, Miniesis (1946; trans. Willard R. Trask, Princeton: Princeton 
Univ. Press, 1953, rpt. 1968), p. 554. Ali further references are to this edition and will 
appear in the text. 

2. Antonio Gramsci, Lettere dal carcere, ed. S. Caprioglio and E. Fubini (Turin: 
Einaudi, 1965), p. 58. AH further references wiil be to this edition, referred to as LC, 
and will appear in the text. 

3. Antonio Gramsci, quoted mG'mse^^eYìon, Antonio Gramsci: Life of A Revolu- 
tionary, trans. Tom Nairn (1965; New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1971), p. 26. 


4. Fiori, p. 237. 

5. Alighieri, Dante, La Commedia secondo l'antica vulgata, ed. G. Petrocchi (Ver- 
ona: Mondadori, 1966), Inf. X, 36. 

6. Auerbach in Wolfgang B. Fieischmann, "Erich Auerbach's Criticai Theory and 
Practice: An Assessment," Modem Language Notes, 81 (1966), p. 539. 

7. Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del carcere: Letteratura e vita nazionale, Opere di 
Antonio Gramsci, (Turin: Einaudi, 1954), VI, p. 34. Hereafter referred to as LVN. 
Further references to this edition will appear in the text. 

8. Lynne Lawner, Introduction to Antonio Gramsci, Letters from Prison, selected 
and trans. Lynne Lawner (NY: Harper and Row, 1973), p. 41. 

9. Fiori, pp. 237-8. 
10. Lawner, p. 42. 





The thematic and stylistic build-up which culminates in the two 
narrative peaks of the Orlando Furioso (Orlando's fall imo folly and 
his recovery) draws together the threads spun by the various infra- 
structures in such a way as to demonstrate the centrai importance of 
the theme of the loss of self resulting from "o per nostro difetto, o per 
colpa di tempo o di fortuna" (34, 73, 6-7). 

These various infrastructures serve several purposes. Generally 
speaking, they parallel the centrai theme both for emphasis and for 
symmetry. But their development is not strictly linear. Each narrows 
the scope of the story and focuses it on one component which contrib- 
utes to the main crisis, sketching it with its own characters, in its own 
shades of dark and light. Also, one narrative peak represents the 
positive pole to the other's negative, as will be demonstrated through 
the poem, both metaphorically and actually. Thus, one image cancels 
out the other, resulting in a literal and figurative vanishing of both 
physical and psychological elements. In other words, the crisis of 
Orlando's madness is not resolved by his recovery. Ariosto alludes to a 
problem which is greater and more far-reaching than that, which 
necessitates a recognition of the essentially futile nature of such 
aspiration, and the impermanence of human achievement, whose 
reversai or negation is implied by its very existence. 



The structure of the poem, consisting of the narrative line of the 
crisis of Orlando's madness and his recovery, is essentially symmetri- 
cal. This can he demonstrated not only through a study of the structure 
of the crisis itself, but also through an examination of the construction 
and the juxtaposition of the infrastructures which parallel it. The 
centrai theme can he broken down into its several components by 
means of a study of how these infrastructures contribute to the climate 
in which the events of the centrai narrative line talee place, since they 
gravitate to one centrai, synthetic image. 

The opening lines of the poem's first canto consist of an enumera- 
tion of the same basic elements which will serve as a framework for 
the narrative structure of the poem: "Le donne, i cavallier, l'arme, gli 
amori — le cortesie, l'audaci imprese io canto" (1,1, 1-2). This list of 
persons and objects participates in and contributes to the climate of 
self-doubt and loss of sanity: each of these elements has a separate 
narrative line based upon it which helps to build the story. Though 
Ariosto lists objects and persons, they serve as mechanisms which 
represent the concepts and values with which the poet is dealing in his 
work. Through them, once-fixed values will be shown to be in flux, and 
through the intervention of folly, chance, or time, each will show the 
opposite side of its nature, even as Orlando does. In turn, many of the 
questioned values will be restored and reaffirmed, though thetenorof 
doubt remains. 

The extent to which the poet is questioning these concepts and 
values, and the intensity of the climate of doubt he creates, can be 
detected by his personal involvement in the crisis which befalls 
Orlando. Significantly, his first mention of Orlando's madness is tied 
to his own personal experience, setting the scene for the subsequent 
crisis with a graduai increase in intensity of tone: 

Dirò d'Orlando in un medesmo tratto 

cosa non detta in prosa mai né in rima: 

che per amor venne in furore e matto, 

d'uom che sì saggio era stimato prima; 

se da colei che tal quasi m'ha fatto, 

che '1 poco ingegno ad or ad or mi lima, 

me ne sarà però tanto concesso, 

che mi basti a finir quanto ho promesso." (1,2, 1-8) 


This first mention prepares for Orlando's madness; a later reitera- 
tion of this same theme takes place in canto 24, the canto in which 
Orlando's madness begins. Here, however, the poet is now preparing 
the way for the recuperation of Orlando's wits by expressing a hope for 
his own eventual recovery, despite the severity of his own crisis: 

Ben mi si porrla dir: — Frate, tu vai 

l'altrui mostrando, e non vedi il tuo fallo. — 

Io vi rispondo che comprendo assai, 

or che di mente ho lucido intervallo; 

et ho gran cura (e spero farlo ormai) 

di riposarmi e d'uscir fuor di ballo: 

ma tosto far, come vorrei, noi posso; 

che '1 male è penetrato infin ali 'osso. (24, 3, 1-8) 

Similarly, the supporting eiements listed in the prologue contribute 
to the unfolding of the narrative. The first of these eiements is "le 
donne", and women play a centrai role in the crisis of Orlando's 
madness, on the two levels we bave established. First, on the surface 
level of narrative cause and effect, it is Orlando's excessive, unrequited 
love for a woman which leads him to stray from the path of his 
chivalric duty, and, in consequence, he is punished by going mad. 

Secondly, on the stylistic level, the changing shades of dark and light 
in which Ariosto depicts the role of women signal both the approach- 
ing crisis of Orlando's madness and the subsequent recuperation of his 
wits. Both individually and collectively, the position of the woman is 
questioned and rehabilitated. The character of Marfisa demonstrates 
this concept. Marfisa is perhaps the most isolated character in the 
poem; without family or background, she is seen only in the role of 
warrior, whereas Bradamante plays the dual role of lover-warrior. Her 
crisis of identity as a woman follows the crisis of Orlando's madness 
closely, and is interwoven with the story of Bradamante, which carries 
on the main line of the love theme. The resolution of the crisis of 
Bradamante's jealousy accomplishes several purposes. First, it estab- 
lishes both Bradamante and Marfisa as women, on a purely physical 
and very concrete level, as can be seen in the description of their fight, 
which follows their chivalric duel: "che la battaglia fanno — a pugni e a 
calci, poi ch'altro non hanno." (36, 50, 7-8). Secondly, this episode 
serves to situate Marfisa within a family structure, explains her back- 


ground, and sets the scene for her baptism which seals the process of 
her socialization. Thirdly, it contributes to the general atmosphere of a 
rehabilitation of the status of women in the poem, the rehabihtation of 
a socially isolated person, and thus hints at the approaching rehabihta- 
tion of Orlando himself. Also, this sudden and miraculous explanation 
of Marfisa's origins has the added effect of completely nullifying 
Bradamante's jealousy — at least for the moment. Therefore, the 
infrastructures set up by Ariosto confirm both the thematic and 
stylistic build-up. The theme of Marfisa's story parallels Orlando's 
recovery, while in the images we also find a stylistic similarity: for 
example. Orlando is wrestled to the ground by his knights and his 
struggles are described in the realistic terms which bave lent a physical 
immediacy to both scenes: "Ad Olivier che troppo inanzi fassi, — 
menò un pugno sì duro e sì perverso..." (39, 50, 5-6). 

The woman is also described in the communal setting, and in this 
case as well we find the images which parallel the build-up of Orlan- 
do's madness and the resolution of the crisis. The two collectives of 
women in the Orlando Furioso illustrate opposing points of view; 
positive and negative poles. The first group of women is encountered 
in canto 19; these women murder or imprison ali men who venture 
near their shores unless they can fulfill the rules of combat; they must 
defeat ten champions in battle, and then sleep with ten women. This 
cruel and unnatural society is destroyed through the combined efforts 
of the prowess of a woman, Marfisa, and Astolfo's magic horn (signifi- 
cantly, the gift of a woman, Logistilla). In addition, at the beginning of 
this canto, Ariosto has already signalled the reader that this state of 
affairs will not persist; speaking in general terms of the negative 
image of women which literature has heretofore presented, he says: 

Le donne son venute in eccelenza 

di ciascun'arte ove hanno posto cura; 

e qualunque all'istorie abbia avvertenza, 

ne sente ancor la fama non oscura. 

Se '1 mondo n'è gran tempo stato senza, 

non però sempre il mal influsso dura; 

e forse ascosi han lor debiti onori 

l'invidia o il non saper degli scrittori." (20, 2, 1-8) 


And such, indeed, is the case in Ariosto's poem. The next group of 
women encountered presents the opposite image, through the story of 
Marganorre and Drusilla. Here the virtuous nature of women is 
restored; in answer to the flexible morals of a Doralice or an Orrigille, 
we have instead a woman who commits suicide rather than submit to 
her husband's murderer. And in the prologue to this canto, Ariosto has 
reintroduced a theme which signals to the reader theapproachingof a 
crisis. In canto 20 he has warned that the negative image of women 
would give way to a positive one, and now in canto 37 a lengthy 
argument contends that the time has come for women to receive their 
due praises and to be fairly represented in literature: 

che, come cosa buona non si trova 

che duri sempre, così ancor né ria. 

Se le carte sin qui state e gl'inchiostri 

per voi non sono, or sono a' tempi nostri. (37, 7, 5-8). 

Not only is this passage a near echo of 20, 3, 1-4: 

Ben mi par di veder ch'ai secol nostro 
tanta virtù fra belle donne emerga, 
che può dare opra a carte et ad inchiostro, 
perché nei futuri anni si disperga... (20, 3, 1-4) 

but the two statements also contribute to the creation of a climate of 
flux, of progression, of a passage from evil toward good, preparing for 
Orlando's similar passage. 

The next component of Ariosto's fictive world is "i cavallier". 
Indeed, throughout the poem, it is most notably the folly of man which 
gives rise to the various crises of the narrative. Can it be shown that 
these secondary crises in any way parallel Orlando's, and do they help 
to create the climate of anticipation which prepares the reader for the 
loss and the recuperation of bis wits? Do they in addition bring imo 
relief some of the nuances of Orlando's crisis.'' 

One parallel example to Orlando's folly can be found in the episode 
of Grifone, who follows Orrigille and Martano to Damascus, having 
been deluded into believing that Orrigille is stili faithful to him. The 
results are serious, though not so serious as they are for Orlando; 
Grifone is betrayed and imprisoned, though eventually he, too, regains 
the honor he had lost. But the reader is left with an overriding sense of 



his folly in having believed Orrigille's tale, even as Orlando will 
attempt to delude himself into believing that it is another Angelica 
who has married Medoro. 

This theme of delusion is worthy of further study; perhaps its most 
fully developed metaphor is found in the episode of the magic castle of 
Atlante, into whose trap man and women alike are lured by false 
images of their lovers created through sorcery. Even Bradamante, 
warned in advance by Melissa, is not immune to its lures: "perché 
voglio de la credenza altrui — che la veduta mia giudichi peggio?" ( 13, 
77, 5-6). 

Yet, in attempting to follow Ruggiero, she finds, as bave ali the 
others (including Orlando himself) that she has been following an 
illusioni "A tutti par che quella cosa sia, — che più ciascun per sé brama 
e desia" (12, 20, 7-8). Here many of the principal characters of the 
poem are made the victims of their universal weakness, pathetically 
wandering throughout the castle pursuing the false images of what 
they desire the most. 

There are elements in Orlando's role in these canti, both thematic 
(his delusion) and stylistic (images and language which relate to and 
forateli his own impending crisis) which will be more fully developed 
later in canto 24 when he truly becomes mad: 

Subito smonta, e fulminando passa 
dove più dentro il bel tetto s'alloggia: 
corre di qua, corre di là... (12, 9, 1-3). 

Similarly, Rodomonte's rage upon learning of Doralice's infidelity 
foreshadows Orlando's madness; similarities in the text bear this out: 
for Rodomonte, Ariosto writes: "a tanta rabbia, a tal furor s'estende, 
— che ne a monte né a rio né a notte mira;" (18, 35, 5-6), and for 
Orlando: "In tanta rabbia, in tanto furor venne, — che rimase offus- 
cato in ogni senso." (23, 134, 1-2). 

However, beneath the semantic similarities, there is also an essen- 
tial difference between these two stories; the conclusion of one repres- 
ents the positive outcome, and the other, the negative. For 
Rodomonte, there will be no real recuperation, no salvation. His 
future becomes increasingly violent, from the killing of Isabella to his 
own demise. Significantly, the poem ends with his violent and bloody 


death, not with Orlando's recovery, as if to warn of the inevitable 
consequences of excess. His is the counter-type to the story of Orlan- 
do's madness, as it is to Brandimarte's in battle. There is no salvation 
for him, whereas Orlando is restored to society. Orlando, Rinaldo, and 
Ruggiero will ali achieve this recuperation, through different means; 
Orlando will reacquire his sanity, Ruggiero will be restored to the 
Christian social structure as was Marfisa. The cases of Rinaldo and 
Astolfo are problematical and contain nuances the others lack; they 
perhaps best represent Ariosto's intentions, an acceptance of the 
limits of human knowledge and of the impermanence of human 

The next component of Ariosto's poetic structure is Tarme ", and 
the fates of the various arms and accoutrements of the Christian 
knights, which end up in the Saracens' hands, symbolize both the 
spiritual condition of the Christian army, whose soldiers are forever 
neglecting their duty for the sake of love, and the contemporary state 
of the spiritual and politicai affairs of the Italy of Ariosto's time. They 
trace throughout the complex narrative line of the poem a line of 
moral as well as physical straying from the right and an eventual 
return to it. In addition, this theme is connected with the necessity of 
recourse to the supernatural forces miraculously provided by Astolfo, 
who is also, by means of a supernatural voyage, able to restore Orlan- 
do's wits. The battle of positive and negative forces often takes place in 
this sphere as well, between sorcerers such as Melissa and Atlante, and 
through the use of magical weapons such as the ring or Astolfo's horn. 

Love itself is mentioned next in the prologue, and the many digres- 
sions which follow throughout the poem on the nature and typology of 
love are summed up in the introduction to the pivotal canto 24: 

Chi mette il pie su l'amorosa pania, 

cerchi ritrario, e non v'inveschi l'ale; 

che non è in somma amor, se non insania, 

a giudizio de' savi universale: 

e se ben come Orlando ognun non smania, 

suo furor mostra a qualch'altro segnale. 

E quale è di pazzia segno più espresso 

che, per altri voler, perder se stesso? (24, 1, 1-8) 


Furthermore, a very cursory examination of the themes related to love 
(which could constitute a separate study in itself) shows the develop- 
ment of this theme in its various aspects and dangers, and also shows 
how closely its line follows the development of the Orlando theme of 
insanity and recovery. Canto 1 opens with the link not only between 
the author himself and Orlando, but also between love for a woman 
and insanity; in canto 2, Ariosto describes the state which has led to 
Orlando's madness — the unequal state of unrequited love. In canto 4, 
he presents the dangers of delusion; and in canto 5, strife between men 
and women; in canto 6, betrayal; and in canto 8, love resulting from 
enchantment. In canto 9, very significantly, Orlando abandons bis duty 
to search for Angelica: "or per un vano amor, poco del zio, — e di sé 
poco, e men cura di Dio." (9, 1, 7-8). 

In canto 10 the problem of infidelity is presented, and in canto 1 1 
the fact that reason is seldom sufficient to deter a man from tempta- 
tion: "raro è però che di ragione il morso — libidinosa furia a dietro 
volga, — quando il piacere ha in pronto" (11, 1, 3-5). 

Canto 12 presents a significant parallel image to Orlando's search 
for Angelica which culminates in such despair; he is compared to Ceres 
searching for her lost daughter, and the same vocabulary and images 
are used to describe both scenes, with both Ceres and Orlando tearing 
up trees in their anguish. 

Canto 13 reconfirms the negative image of women, presenting the 
difficulty of finding a virtuous woman. In canto 16, Ariosto discusses 
the penalties of love, such as enslavement; in canto 19 he warns that 
changes in fortune will demonstrate the difference between true and 
false friends, emphasizing the temporal nature of human emotions. In 
canto 20 we are again confronted with the negative image of women, 
in contrast to the positive male image which Zerbino personifies in 
canto 21. This contrast is further intensified by the presence of 
Gabrina in canto 22. In canto 23 wrong-doers are warned that bad 
actions bave bad consequences, just as Orlando is punished for aban- 
doning bis duty. Canto 24 describes the madness of love, which sets the 
scene for the expanded description of Orlando's madness. 

The arrivai at the moment of crisis in the poem signals a turning 
point in the narrative. Significantly, the insertionof positive elements 
now begins to take place, as one canto later, Ariosto already prepares 


for Orlando's recovery, stating that honor and duty can be compatible 
with love, and that love can be a force which influences toward good 
ends as well as bad: "Dunque Amor sempre rio non si ritrova: — se 
spesso nuoce, anco talvolta giova." (25, 2, 7-8). 

Furthermore, canti 26, 27, and 28 serve to refute the negative image 
of women, while providing a reversai of the earlier contrast with an 
example of the unfaithfulness of men, in canto 29. In canto 30 Ariosto 
warns of future repentance when love gives way to fury, thus implying 
the potential for a recovered state, in which regret will be felt. In canti 
31 and 32 the narrative line is transferred to Bradamante's crisis, and 
its resolution foreshadows the resolution of Orlando's own crisis. 
Canto 34 further prepares the reader for the scene of Orlando's 
recovery, as the agent of that recovery, Astolfo, chases the Harpies, 
symbolizing psychological torment, back to Hell. In canto 35 Ariosto 
asks rhetorically who will restore bis own wits; in Canto 37 he praises 
women, and in canto 38 he stresses the importance of duty over love, 
through the example of Ruggiero, in a reversai of the error committed 
by Orlando. Finally, in canto 39, Orlando's wits are restored to him by 

Thus, though other characters are often the agents who carry out 
these themes, there is a centrai unity which ties together the many 
diverse infrastructures. Thematically and stylistically, they are ali 
linked to the centrai theme and the centrai narrative line; for example, 
Bradamante's adventures and misfortunes, though only occasionally 
intersecting Orlando's on the narrative level, not only serve to set the 
scene for them, but actually interpret and illuminate aspects of the 
centrai problem which he impersonates. 

"Le cortesie", or chivalry, as a theme, serves much the same pur- 
pose; the violation of bis knightly duty to Charlemagne results in 
madness for Orlando, and likewise, bis impending recovery is sig- 
nalled on the stylistic and thematic levels by an elevation in tone, and a 
maximum stress on chivalric language and concepts. For example, 
Ferrau gives as bis reason for fighting Bradamante: "Non che vincer 
speri, — ma perché di cader più degna scusa — abbian, cadendo 
anch'io, questi guerrieri." (35, 74, 2-4). Also, the duel between Rug- 
giero and Rinaldo, and most especially the duel between Ruggiero and 
Dudone, literally become duels of chivalric speech: 


— Per Dio (dice), signor, pace facciamo; 
ch'esser non può più la vittoria mia: 
esser non può più mia; che già mi chiamo 
vinto e prigion de la tua cortesia. — 
Ruggier rispose: — Et io la pace bramo 
non men di te; ma che con patto sia, 
che questi sette re c'hai qui legati, 
lasci ch'in libertà mi sieno dati. — (41, 6, 1-8). 

Running alongside this theme is a perceptible tone of regret for the 
passing of a way of life which the author saw as better than the 
contemporary one: 

Ben furo aventurosi i cavallieri 

ch'erano a quella età, che nei valloni, 

ne le scure spelonche e boschi fieri, 

tane di serpi, d'orsi e di leoni, 

trovavan quel che nei palazzi altieri 

a pena or trovar puon giudici buoni: (13, 1, 1-6) 

Having discussed the role played by the woman in the build-up to 
Orlando's madness, and in his recovery as well, the rote of the couple 
ought to be examined also. For example, the couple of Angelica and 
Medoro proves disastrous to Orlando on the surface leve! of narrative 
cause and effect. But what sort of infrastructures do the other pairings 
create, and do they contribute to the structure of the main theme? 
Many pairings occur in the canti immediately preceding Orlando's fall 
into folly, and dissolve with equal rapidity (Zerbino-Gabrina, 
Pinabello-La Donzella, Orlando-Isabella, etc), and this climate of 
instability provides the psychological piane with anguish in prepara- 
tion for Orlando's madness, itself the result of the pairing of Angelica 
and Medoro. Orlando has witnessed the fragility of the couple; now it 
becomes his personal experience (Bireno-Olimpia, Zerbino-Isabella). 
The instability of the Isabella-Zerbino couple was at first due to 
temporary circumstances, but in the violent explosion of events in the 
wake of Orlando's madness, the tragic destruction of this couple 
becomes permanent. The climate of impending tragedy is prepared by 
Zerbino's reaction to the sight of the temporary pairing of Orlando 
and Isabella: 


perché si pensa, e senza dubbio tiene 

ch'Orlando sia de la donzella amante. 

Cosi cadendo va di pene in pene, 

e poco dura il gaudio ch'ebbe inante: 

il vederla d'altrui peggio sopporta, 

che non fé' quando udì ch'ella era morta. (23, 65, 3-8). 

Is the role of the couple reestablished in the poem? This is not so 
clear. The eventual reconciliation of Bradamante and Ruggiero, 
though fraught with difficulties, serves to illustrate the point that duty 
must supersede love. However, the tragic ruin of the couple of Fiordi- 
ligi and Brandimarte leaves behind an overwhelming sense of loss. At 
best, the result is ambiguous, as in the case of Rinaldo and his wife; but 
here again, by means of this example, an important point is made; the 
necessity of accepting limits. Thus, in the Orlando Furioso, the couple 
is seen in ali its various ramifications throughout the narrative: tragic 
(Isabella-Zerbino, Fiordiligi-Brandimarte), comic (Zerbino-Gabrina), 
deadlocked (Rodomonte-Doralice/Doralice-Mandricardo), and am- 
biguous (Rinaldo). 

This lingering ambiguity brings the narrative full-circle. The stories 
of Rinaldo and Astolfo best illustrate this point. The two infrastruc- 
tures which devolve from these two characters illuminate most clearly 
the follies and vissicitudes of Orlando's own adventures, and in addi- 
tion, carry them one step further. By showing Astolfo's centrai role in 
the unfolding and resolution of Orlando's crisis, I hope to demonstrate 
that the choice of Astolfo for the fulfilling of this function was made 
with the express purpose of developing further the exploration of the 
theme embodied in Orlando's experiences. 

When Astolfo is first encountered in the tale, he has already suf- 
fered misfortune from a foolish excess of love, just as Orlando will 
suffer later. Deluded and tricked by love combined with the magic 
element which accompanies Astolfo throughout the poem, he has not 
gone mad (though later we learn that he too has lost a share of his 
wits), but has been transformed imo a plant and abandoned on 
Alcina's island. He himself refers to his folly: "Di mia sciocchezza 
tosto fui pentito" (6, 41, 7). When he is released, he receives instruc- 
tion from the enchantress Logistilla, who embodies the opposing 
virtues of wisdom and good sense; she gives him a hook which will 


enable him to avoid enchantments and a horn with which to defend 
himself. Many of his adventures are symbolic and prepare the reader 
for his pivotal role in restoring Orlando's sanity: he destroys the 
illusory castle of Atlante, which symboHzes the delusions of love; he 
captures and kills Caligorante and Orrillo, respectively, just as he will 
capture and tie the mad Orlando. The net with which he binds 
Caligorante is, symbolically, the one made by Vulcan to ensnare the 
adulterous Aphrodite, combining the psychological problem of 
unfaithfulness and the fantasy element. When he chases the Harpies 
back to Hell, his role in eradicating the mental torment of Orlando is 
foretold. In addition, he uses his horn to destroy the island of the 
women, who symbolize ali of the negative characteristics exhibited by 
individuai women in the narrative. He travels to Hell, where he learns 
of the punishment of the ungrateful, and thence to the Earthly Para- 
dise, a scene reminiscent of the idyllic landscape in which Orlando's 
madness takes place. He is also warned by Saint John of the transitory 
nature of fame through the image of the waters of Lethe. His personal 
experience will also serve as an illustration of the vanity of achieve- 
ment. He learns that the things stored on the moon bave been lost 
through time, chance, or our own folly. We are told that, after restor- 
ing his own wits, Astolfo was wise until he lost them again. Thus, the 
feeling of achievement in Orlando's recovery is negated even before 
that recovery actually takes place. 

A profound sense of the absurdity of human endeavor is the overrid- 
ing feeling which remains at the resolution of the poem. Nowhere is 
this feeling of vanity, of emptiness resulting from the final synthesis 
of thematic elements, more acutely felt than when the boats and 
armies created by Astolfo's magic are turned again imo stones and 
leaves which blow away in the wind. This literal disappearance of both 
physical and psychological elements alludes to the larger problem of 
the futility of mortai accomplishment. Though Orlando's wits bave 
been restored, and the battle is won, we are left with a sense of loss, an 
overwhelming awareness of the impermanence and fragility of life. 
Ali the values of love, war, and the chivalric code bave been questi- 
oned. The essential opposites of folly and wisdom bave synthesized 
and vanished. What, then, is left? 


The answer is most clearly demonstrated by Rinaldo's acceptance of 
limits and measures. In his refusai to drink the wine which will teli 
him whether or not his wife is faithful, he imposes limits on his own 
desire to know, and reestablishes the value of faith. If Orlando's 
madness is the result of excess, Rinaldo's wisdom is an acceptance of 

...ben sarebbe folle 

chi quel che non vorria trovar, cercasse. 

Mia donna è donna, et ogni donna è molle: 

lascian star mia credenza come stasse. 

Sin qui m'ha il creder mio giovato, e giova: 

che poss'io megliorar per farne prova? (43, 6, 3-8) 

This leaves a far more satisfying, or at least realistically based, feeling 
of resolution than the uncorking of the vessel containing Orlando's 
wits. In addition, Rinaldo himself draws parallels between his own 
choice and that which has faced humankind since the folly of Adam, 
"che tal certezza ha Dio più proibita, — ch'ai primo padre l'arbor de la 
vita." (43, 7, 7-8). 

Furthermore, against the void created by the disappearance of 
Astolfo's magic, the inescapable sense of the vanity of endeavor left by 
the knowledge that Astolfo's cure is only temporary, and against the 
poet's poignant awareness of the passing of a tradition based on 
symmetry and measure, of a way of life palpable beneath the fantasti- 
cai surface, we are faced with the fixed, permanent, symmetrical 
structure of the poetic creation itself, so clearly perceptible in a study of 
its thematic and stylistic elements. 





In the meagre collection of non-Italian references to Vico which 
appear prior to the first translation of his masterpiece, the Scienza 
Nuova, in 1948, he is mentioned characteristically as a mystic preoir- 
sor of the Romantic movement. CE. Vaughan's 1921 address on the 
then unknown Vico and his Scienza Nuova is typical: Vico, he told his 
audience, was "the first to herald the great poetic revival of the 
eighteenth century: the first to demand that Poetry should be released 
from the gilded cage in which Pope and Boileau had imprisoned her." ' 
But there is more to Vico than his theories of poetic imagination, 
childhood fancy, and cultural evolution which scholars have singled 
out for their impact upon Coleridge, Rousseau, and Herder. And there 
is far more to Vico's writings than the Scienza Nuova. In a recently 
published collection from a symposium honoring Vico's tercentenary 
(1668-1968), historians, philosophers, anthropologists, educators, lin- 
guists, sociologists, poets, and critics from both sides of the Atlantic 
expand their studies of Vico to include his Latin works, his sources, and 
the broad are of his influence in the nineteenth and twentieth centur- 
ies. Where they detect no direct Vichian influence, these scholars trace 
the remarkable parallels between Vico's visionary philosophy and that 
of later thinkers. If Vico has never had a well-defined place in the 
history of ideas it is not, Giorgio Tagliacozzo assures us, because of the 
obscurity of his writings, but because "Vico's thought embraced too 



many different aspects of too many cultural epochs, presupposed the 
simultaneous dissolution of too many traditions and commonplaces, 
and represented too originai a synthesis to gain a hold at the time of its 
formation and immediately thereafter."^ 

Despite the breadth and depth of the Symposium 's articles, there 
remains a surprising tendency to extract Vico from his own time and 
to view his thoughts merely as precursors of later writings. Without 
denying that Vico's "originai synthesis" dissolved many eighteenth- 
century "traditions and commonplaces," we must also view him as a 
man of his own time who shared the "traditional" and "untraditional" 
thoughts of other eighteenth-century writers. Although Rene Wellek 
alone in the Symposium deals with Vico in his own period, the thrust 
of his essay is not to make connections, but to deny that anyone "in the 
eighteenth century, least of ali in Great Britain, absorbed or even 
discussed ...Vico's stupendous theme of history."^ Wellek does, how- 
ever, suggest that cultural convergence in the eighteenth century may 
explain the ubiquity of "Vichian" ideas. To understand Vico as a man 
of his own time and to place him in relation to eighteenth-century 
England, we must see that he expresses many ideas considered by his 
English contemporaries, as well as vice versa. After ali, Vico, too, had 
read the Latin works of many great seventeenth-century English 
thinkers — Bacon, Hobbes, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Stanley, Selden, 
and Dempster among them — and had been moved by them.^ It is thus 
very likely that the cultural and philosophical attitudes driving eight- 
eenth century Englishmen to evolve (to borrow Kuhn's term) a 
"paradigm shift" were also working on Vico through the same sources. 

Vico's De nostri temporis studiorum ratione (On the Study Methods of 
Our Time) was delivered as an address to the students at the University of 
Naples in 1708, and published in 1709. It was not translated into English 
until 1965; its "non-Italian bibliography [is] practically non-existent.'"' 
Yet the De ratione is considered by the doyen of Vico studies to be "the 
most important pedagogie essay between Locke's Thoughts on Education 
(1693) and the Emile (1762) of Rousseau."*^ Moreover, its focus on the 
famous 'Querelles des Anciens et des Modernes" in seventeenth and 
eighteenth-century England, France, and Italy places Vico well within the 
concerns of his own time, and therefore provides us with a valuable 
comparison of Vico's ideas and those of his English contemporaries. 


While in the France of Boileau and Perrauk the "Querelle" was an 
exclusively literary one, in England, as R.F.Jones amply demonstrates, 
it embraced, and centered on, Baconian experimental science.^ By the 
time Swift wrote A Tale of a Tub and the Battle ofBooks (circa 1696), 
the controversy had been largely settled in England in favor of modem 
science.^ Nevertheless stirrings were stili heard and in 1690 Swift's 
patron, Sir William Tempie, published a defense of the superiority of 
ancient philosophy and science in bis Essay upon the Ancient and 
Modem Learning. The small flurry caused by Temple's Essay and 
Wotton's response to him in Reflections upon Ancient and Modem 
Learning ( 1694) reawakened the debate that had occurred between the 
Royal Society and its attackers following the publication of Sprat's 
History of the Royal Society in 1667. When Bentley and Boyle joined 
opposite sides of the renewed fray, Swift armed bis pen with satiric 
barbs and began to write the Tale and the Battle. From Dennis's The 
Advancement and Reformation of Modem Poetry in 1701 through 
Johnson's observations late in the eighteenth-century, English writers 
continued to debate the merits of the Ancients and Moderns in learn- 
ing and poetic inspiration. 

Vico, like Swift, wrote in response to a strong modernist sentiment 
in the Italian intellectual community, Cartesianism dominated philo- 
sophical methodology and Vico felt compelled, as a professor of rhe- 
toric, to defend the classical humanities from the radicai anti- 
historicism and depreciation of language and literature that came 
in Descartes's wake. Although Vico was utterly devoted to Baconian 
science, the Englishman's antitraditionalism displeased him; he felt 
"implicit in it a rejection of the heritage of that dear to 
his heart."'' But there is much of the modem in Vico too. In the De 
ratione he opens the debate between Ancients and Moderns beyond 
" humanitas versus science" to embrace psychology, literature, elo- 
quence, mathematics, and the way we study them. He admits from the 
outset that the Moderns' study methods "seem, beyond any doubt, 
better and more correct than those of the Ancients." '° But rather than 
align himself wholly with one camp or the other, as did his Italian 
predecessors and most other writers of the period. Vico understood 
the reciprocity of ancient and modem learning, and culled from each 
the best it had to offer. 


If Vico and Swift come to widely differing conclusions about the 
nature of man's learning and imagination, nevertheless they base their 
objections to modernism on a strikingly similar premise: both write as 
adversaries to any abstract intellectual schema "which forces tumultu- 
ous, contradictory human nature into the straight jacket of an absolute 
truth, of a truth excogitated, dreamt of, but never to be met with in 
reality."" Vico opens the De ratione with a skeptical assessment of 
man's ability to know anything absolutely: "ali that man is given to 
know is, like man himself, limited and imperfect" (DR, p. 35). Like 
Swift, Vico never dismisses this sense of man's limitations for long. 
Time and again he reminds us that men "are, for the most part, but 
fools...ruled, not by forethought, but by whim or chance" (DR, p. 4); 
that "Nature and life are full of incertitude" (DR, p. 15). Small 
wonder, then, that the Cartesian notion of "clear and distinct ideas" is 
repugnant to the Vichian mind. Vico does not quarrel with advances in 
modem chemistry, anatomy, pharmacology, geography, or mechanics; 
these are benefits of the Moderns' superior insight and "complemen- 
tary aids."'^ But for "the Instruments with which modem science 
operate[s]" (DR, p. 12), that is, for strictly deductive syllogistic reason- 
ing. Vico has no praise. Descartes's philosophical criticism is "jejune 
and aridly deductive" (DR, p. 17); it stifles the growth of common 
sense by preventing judgments based on verisimilitude. And this 
inability to reason from verisimilitude and probability threatens 
Vico's own field: he perceives 

a danger that instruction in advanced philosophical criticism may lead 
to an abnormal growth of abstract intellectualism, and render young 
people unfit for the practice of eloquencc.Satisfied with abstract truth 
alone, and not being gifted with common sense, these [Cartesian] 
doctrinaires do not bother to find out whether their opinion is held by 
the generality and whether the things that are truths to them are also 
true to other people. 

(DR, pp. 13, 35) 

Vico believes that the Ancients avoided undue and premature 
emphasis on abstract reasoning by teaching their youths to argue from 
set topics rather than from analytical geometry. They thus nurtured 
memory and imagination in their adolescents "without doing violence 
to nature, but gradually and gently and in step with the mental 


capacities of their age" (DR, p. 14). Personal conviction and simple 
eloquence are, for Vico, the only persuasive tools of argument because 
they are derived from contact with and experience of reality. Moving 
outward from the sphere of rhetoric, Vico argues that scientific 
research and Galen-styled medicai treatment based solely on specula- 
tion will result only in sunken dreams and dead patients. The Carte- 
sian method in the De ratione is, finally, "a divinatory art, an activity to 
he placed next to witchcraft."'"^ 

It is a short but significant jump from Vico's veiled attacks on 
Descartes and his mild humor at the expense of Perot's sunken ship to 
Swift's satiric excoriation of Descartes in A Tale of a Tub. In the Tale's 
"Digression Concerning Madness" Swift attacks his favorite bugbear, 
the "system." "Monsieur Des Cartes," like Alexander the Great and 
Jack of Leyden, receives Swift's wrath as a system-builder — a des- 
troyer of common sense and a promulgator of cant. Like Vico, Swift is 
deeply suspicious of abstract reasoning, but where the Italian likens it 
to "witchcraft," Swift reduces it to utter madness: 

...madness [has] been the parent of ali those mighty revolutions that 
bave happened in empire, in philosophy, and in religion. For the brain, 
in its naturai position and state of serenity, disposeth its owner to pass 
his life in the common forms, without any thought of subduing multi- 
tudes to his own power, his reasons, or his visions...But when a man's 
fancy gets astride on his reason, when imagination is atcuffs with the 
senses, and common understanding, as well as common sense, is kicked 
out of doors, the first proselyte he makes is himself...''^ 

Swift finally dispatches Descartes altogether in the Battle of Books 
when Aristotle's lance finds "a defect" in the Frenchman's "head- 

In Swift's vision, imagination and memory are no longer the crea- 
tive gifts of youth to be nurtured into eloquence and poetic genius, but 
the instruments of delusion. Where for Vico abstract speculation leads 
to dullness and falsehood, for Swift it induces the cosmic chaos of "A 
Digression Concerning Madness" and Gulliver's third voyage. In the 
kingdom of the Whore, Laputa, Gulliver finds men "so taken up with 
intense speculations, that they neither can speak, nor attend to the 
discourse of others, without being roused by some external taction 
upon the organs of speech and hearing.""' Their houses are ili con- 


structed, they can neither converse with Gulliver nor provide him with 
a decent suit of clothes, they live in Constant apprehension of the 
heavens, and their wives universally cheat on thenn — when a stranger 
is available. In short, Swift presents a comic picture of a kingdom so 
discommoded by its lofty speculations that its male citizenry cannot 
even manage the fundamental act of fornication. At heart, both Swift 
and Vico are utiHtarians; for both, science should confine itself to the 
concrete and the useful. Where Vico presents a single example of a 
failed experiment based on speculative reasoning, Swift's hypertro- 
phied fancy runs amuck. He brings Gulliver to the Grand Academy of 
Projectors in Lagado, capital of Balnibarbi. Thinly-veiled parodies of 
the Royal Society's "virtuosi," the Grand Academicians of Lagado 
expend their energies speculating on multifarious ways to improve 
society. "The only inconvenience is," Gulliver reports, "that none of 
these projects are yet brought to perfection, and in the mean time the 
whole country lies miserably waste, the houses in ruins, and the people 
without food or clothes." ^^ 

As defenders of humanism's most authentic and durable values, 
both Swift and Vico turn in disgust from the Moderns' propensity to 
create elaborate and useless systems of abstract thought. But where, in 
the Battle of Books, Swift finally dismisses ali the Moderns save Bacon 
as foUowers of Ridicule, Dullness, 111 Manners, and Criticism, Vico, a 
Baconian after ali, shares many of their attitudes and sympathies. In 
their mutuai devotion to common sense reality Vico and Swift para- 
doxically part company. For where Swift views imagination not as the 
"womb," but the "grave" of common sense,'^ not as the source, but the 
devourer of truth. Vico considers the distinction between reason and 
fancy to be a false one. In eschewing Descartes, Vico realizes that man 
cannot aspire to Houhyhnhnm-like sheer rationality without denying 
himself as an integrality of reason, fancy, passion, and emotion. Each 
stage of man's development, as each stage in the development of 
civilization, has its characteristic strengths. Vico needs neither Rous- 
seau nor Herder to convince him that youth is "powerful in imagina- 
tion" which "should in no way be dulled" (DR, pp. 13-14). Remo 
Fornaco, in his study of Vico's educational thought, explains that "per 
il Vico. ..ogni età ha un suo particolare modo di vedere e vivere la realta, 
il che vuol dire che sarebbe un grave errore pedagogico credere che il 


mondo e le cose assumano la stessa fisionomia per il fanciullo e per 
l'adulto."''' In other words, Vico accepts the relativity of perception 
and therefore defends that imaginative part of man which enables him 
to create his own reality. Vico the sociologist, Vico the psychologist, 
leaves Swift in another dimension. His views on poetic genius in 
chapter Vili of the De ratione recali Dennis, Young, and Johnson 
rather than the good Dean. 

In spirit, John Dennis's The Advancetnent and Reformation of 
Modem Poetry of 1701, is not far from Vico's De ratione. Both men, 
after ali, introduce the famous "Querelle " in order "to set the Moderns 
upon an equal foot with even admired Antiquity."^° By learning from 
the Ancients, Vico assures his students, they will remedy their infe- 
riorities and enrich the modem age. Inspired by Longinus's Peri 
Hupsous, Dennis argues for emotion, passion, and "enthusiasm" in 
poetry rather than restraint and adherence to formai rules. The prime 
impetus for this enthusiasm is "the Christian religion" (TFW,p. 469). 
Vico, although he couches his beliefs in more secular terms, also 
locates the sublime in poetic expression and calls on poets to "keep 
their eyes fixed on an ideal truth." (DR, p. 42). The aged Edward 
Young, in his Conjectures on Originai Composition of 1759, seems to 
be the last Englishman to address himself directly to the old debate. 
His attitudes toward the effects of ancient literature on the Moderns 
exactly parallel Vico's. Vico demands: 

What if I declared that the most outstanding masterpieces of the arts 
hinder rather than help students in the field? It may be surprising, but 
nevertheless it is true...Those who are endowed with surpassing genius 
should put the masterworks of their art out of their sight, and strive 
with the greatest to appropriate the secret of nature's grandest 

(DR, pp 71-72) 

Young, in turn, asserts that "illustrious Examples engross, prejudice, 
and intimidate. ..when we write, let our Judgment shut them out of our 
Thoughts" (TFW, p. 874). Vico contends that "since imitators cannot 
surpass or even equal the innovators, they can only fall short of their 
achievement" (DR, p. 71). Similarly, Young tells us that "Imitators 
only give us a sort of Duplicate of what we had, possibly much better, 
before" (TFW, p. 872). Young speaks for both of them when, with a 


radicai distillation of his treatise, he declares, "Imitation is inferiority 
confessed" (TFW, p. 881). Vico concurs with Young's assertion that 
although "the modem powers are equal of those before them, modem 
performance in general is depiorably short" (TFW, p. 878). Both 
writers thus hope to remedy the deficiencies of their times by exhort- 
ing their readers to use the beauties and defects of the Ancients as a 
"chart to conduct, and a sure helm to steer us in our passage togreater 
Perfection than Theirs" (TFW, p. 875). 

Samuel Johnson agrees with Dennis's and Young's criticai attitudes 
toward the Ancients, but goes far beyond them. Of ali English poets in 
the eighteenth century, he seems to come closest to Vico's conceptions 
of poetry's function, method, and sources. And like Vico, he is a 
brilliant neo-classicist in search of a new paradigm to talee him beyond 
the limits of neo-classicism. Vico laments in the De ratione that 

the greatest drawback of our education method is that we pay an 
excessive amount of attention to the naturai sciences and not enough to 
ethics. Our chief fault is that we disregard that part of ethics which 
treats of human character, of its dispositions, its passions, and the 
manner of adjusting these factors to public life and eloquence. We 
neglect that discipline which deals with the differential features of the 
virtues and vices...with the typical characteristics of the various ages of 
man, of the two sexes, of social and economie class, race and nation, and 
with the art of seemly conduct in life, the most difficult of ali arts. 

(DR, p. 32) 

The core of Johnson's poetic canon rests on just this combined concern 
for "ethics" and the "typical characteristics" of humankind. We bave 
only to recali his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets or his 
diatribe against the pastoral in Rambler 37 to see that Johnson's most 
frequent criticisms stem from poetic abuses of either morality or 
reality. Imlac, in Rasselas, speaks for Johnson and echoes Vico when 
he tells the Prince that 

knowledge of nature is only half the task of a poet; he must be 
acquainted with ali the modes of life. His character requires that he 
estimate the happiness and misery of every condition; observe the 
power of ali the passions in ali their combinations, and trace the 
changes of the human mind as they are modified by various institutions 
and accidental influences of climate or custom, from the spriteliness of 


infancy to the despondence of decrepitudc.he must consider right or 
wrong in their abstracted and invariable state... and rise to general and 
transcendental truths, which will always he the same... 

(TFW, p. 1030) 

Thus the essence of poetry for both men lies in its ability to capture 
Vico's "ideal or universal truth" (DR, p. 42). Vico echoes Horace and 
anticipates Johnson when he equates the duties of poet and philo- 
sopher. "The poet teaches by delighting what the philosopher teaches 
austerely," he tells us. "Both teach moral duties, and both incite to 
virtue and deter from vice" by depicting human habits and behavior 
(DR, p. 43). Like Johnson, Vico sees that persuasion to goodness can 
only occur through "plastic portrayals of exalted actions and charac- 
ters" (DR, p. 43), and like Vico, Johnson sees that a poet may "depart 
from the daily semblances of truth, in order to be able to frame a loftier 
semblance of reality" (DR, p. 43). In his "Preface" to The Plays of 
William Shakespeare, Johnson s defense of the abused Shakespearean 
"unities" volubly proclaims his Vichian ability to seek poetic truth 
beyond neo-classical rules.^^ 

The parallels between Vico and Johnson are equally dose in their 
attitudes toward antiquity. Once again, striking similarities in thought 
and expression — even taking into account the different languages — 
strains the absolute conviction that eighteenth-century England 
remained untouched by the Italian thinker and vice versa. And yet, we 
have no evidence at ali to suspect that Dr. Johnson had ever read or 
heard of the stili obscure Neapolitan rhetorician named Giambattista 
Vico. In the De ratione Vico concludes that "our reading...should be 
governed by the judgment of centuries; let us place our educational 
methods under their auspices and protection" (DR, p. 74). Again, the 
evidence of undeniable — although delayed — cultural convergence in 
Johnson's "Preface" of 1756: "The reverance due to writings that have 
long the consequence of acknowledged and indubitable 
positions, that what has been longest known has been most consi- 
dered, and what is most considered is best understood" (TFW, p. 
1067). In fact, the "Method" of study Johnson proposes in Rambler 
154 (1751), if translated into Latin, could be slipped into the De 
ratione unnoticed; if one "hopes to become eminent in any...Part of 
Knowledge," Johnson recommends, "he must first possess himself of 


the intellectual Treasures which the Diligence of former Ages has 
accumulateci, and then endeavor to encrease them by his own Collec- 
tions" (TFW, p. 1000). Vico puts it this way: "The Ancients should he 
read first, since they are of proved reliability and authority" (DR, p. 

Johnson and Vico share the Baroque commonplace that the individ- 
uai recapitulates the "immutable set of 'cultural stages' which the 
whole of mankind has traversed in its growth from infancy to adult- 
hood, from primitivism to civilization."- Again in his "Preface" to 
Shal<espeare, Johnson echoes Vico with "Nations, ilice individuais, 
bave their infancy" (TFW, p. 1075). But despite their many strilcing 
congruencies, it is bere that the two great thinkers part company. 
Where Johnson sees the fabulous world of mythical "giants, dragons, 
and enchantments" (TFW, p. 1075) as evidence of "vulgar," "ple- 
bean," or "childish" credulity, Vico, in the De fattone and the Scienza 
Nuova, elevates mythic imaginings of the "phantasia puerilis" to their 
own level of reality — a reality purer and more spiritually valid than 
Johnson's "maturer knowledge." 

It is because of his attitude toward primitivism and "phantasia 
puerilis" that Vico has been sundered from his more neo-classical 
attitudes and iabeled a "pre-Romanticist." But such a view is facile, 
reductive, and misleading. ^^ico is, above ali, a humanist, a philo- 
sopher, and a denizen of the 17G0's. If he leaves his eighteenth-century 
contemporaries behind, it is not because he is atypical of his time, but 
because he pushes his theories to the level where modem sociology is 
only now endeavoring. Vico's seminai ideas on the individual's con- 
struction of social reality lie at the heart of the last decade's sociological 
controversy. And when, in his final peroration in the De ratione, Vico 
decries the fragmentation of education into the teachings of conflict- 
ing discipiines,^^ and calls for a new concept of education based on the 
organic unity of culture, he anticipates by over three hundred years the 
dilemma now facing American universities. 



1 . CE. Vaughan, "Giambattista Vico: An Eighteenth-Century Pioneer," in Bulletin 
of the John Rylands Library. 6 (1921-22), p. 288. 

2. Giorgio Tagliacozzo, Preface, Giambattista Vico, An International Symposium, 
ed. Giorgio Tagliacozzo and Hayden V. White (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 
1969), p.vii. Hereafter referred to in text as Symposium. 

3. Rene Wellek, "The Supposed Influence of Vico on England and Scotland in the 
Eighteenth Century, ' in Symposium, p. 223- 

4. Wellek, Symposium, p. 218. 

5. Maria Goretti, "Vico's Pedagogie Thought and that of Today," in Symposium, 
pp. 554-5. 

6. Fausto Nicolini, quoted in Translator's Introduction, On the Study Methods of 
Our Time, ed. and trans. Elio Gianturco (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), p.x. 

7. See Richard Poster ]ones, Ancients and Moderns: A Study of the Background of 
the "Battle of the Books", Washington University Studies, 6 (1936). 

8. Jones, p.viii. 

9. Enrico de Mas, "Vico's Four Authors," in Symposium, p. 8. 

10. Giambattista Vico, On the Study Methods of Our Time, p. 9. Ali further 
references to this work are made in the text as "De rat ione" or DR. 

11. Goretti, Symposium, p. 574. 

12. See On the Study Methods, p. 8. Vico includes, as "complementary aids," "works 
of literature and of the fine arts whose excellence designates them as patterns of 
perfection; types used in the printing; and universities as institutions of learning." 

1 3. Domenico Vittorini, "Giambattista Vico and Reality: An Evaluation of De nostri 
temporis studiorum ratione (1708)," MLQ, 13 (1952), p. 92. 

14. Jonathan Swift, A Tale of A Tub, in Gulliver's Travels and Other Writings, ed. 
Louis A. Landa (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960), p. 331. 

15. Swift, The Battle of Books, p. 373. 

16. Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Book III, p. 128. 

17. Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Book III, p. 144. 

18. Swift, A Tale of A Tub, p. 332. 

19. Remo Fornaca, Il pensiero educativo di Giambattista Vico (Torino: G. Giappi- 
chelli Editore, 1957), p. 206. 

20. John Dennis, The Advancement and Reformation of Modem Poetry in Eight- 
eenth Century English Literature, ed. Tillotson, Fussell, and Waingrow (New York: 
Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1969), p. 464. Hereafter referred to as TFW in the text. 

21. Seejohnson's "Preface," TFW, pp. 1072-3. 

22. Elio Gianturco, Translator's Introduction, On the Study Methods, p.xxvii. 

23. These unharmonized disciplines are mentioned in the De ratione on p. 77. 
(Aristotelian, Epicurean, Cartesian, Galenist, Accursian, Fauvrean, Alciatian.) 



Il motivo del viaggio, sottolineato nella sua accezione concreta e, per 
così dire, orizzontale, è ben presente nella letteratura sette- 
ottocentesca. Il viaggio come autopedagogia, come iniziatica scoperta 
del mondo, come gusto di andare e di vedere; ma anche come 
attrazione nell'esotico, nell'utopico, nel favoloso. Basterà ricordare 
autori come Fielding, Sterne, Swift, Foscolo, Alfieri; il più lontano 
Defoe e il contemporaneo del Manzoni Dickens. 

In Manzoni il motivo del viaggio si complementa, in misura 
decisiva, di altri valori. Tenteremo di dimostrare l'esistenza e 
l'importanza di una dimensione verticale in due esempi di viaggio 
manzoniani. Dimensione verticale sia nella direzione di discesa nella 
profondità della coscienza, sia in quella di elevazione verso i divini 
misteri. Cercheremo di dare conto dei particolari modi tenuti 
dall'autore nel trattare il motivo tradizionale, di vedere come si 
presenti il viaggio investito di funzioni interne ad un'opera intrisa di 
spiritualità cristiana. 

Giovanni Getto individua in due capitoli polarizzati verso il motivo 
del viaggio (e della fuga), l'VIII e il XVII, i vertici dei Promessi Sposi, i 
"due supremi momenti in cui i protagonisti, Renzo e Lucia, si rivelano 
nella loro più autentica spiritualità"'. 

Lasciando per ora da parte il capitolo VII con il celeberrimo "Addio, 
monti", ricordiamo che nel XVII Renzo, ricercato dalla polizia, si trova 



in viaggio da Milano al bergamasco, senza conoscere l'esatta via da 
prendere. Sa solo che l'Adda (linea di confine tra Ducato di Milano e 
Repubblica Veneta) deve rappresentare l'immediato riferimento per 
la salvezza. Una volta sul fiume, pensa, sarà possibile trovare un 
passaggio e lasciare alle spalle una patria al momento pericolosa. Ciò 
avverrà con l'aiuto della Provvidenza, vera protagonista dell'ultima 
parte di questo capitolo posto a suggello della somma di vicende che 
hanno messo alla dura verifica della realtà sociale e politica cittadina 
l'umanità generosa e imperfetta del montanaro Renzo. 

L'episodio dell'avvicinamento all'Adda nel XVII capitolo dei 
Promessi Sposi presenta, nel suo complesso e in una ricca serie di 
dettagli testuali, una singolare somiglianza con quello del viaggio del 
diacono Martino nella scena 3 dell'atto II òqW Adelchi. 

L'importanza decisiva del viaggio di Martino nell'economia della 
tragedia manzoniana è funzionale e poetica. Funzionale perché 
consente, con un tocco miracoloso, di superare la situazione di stallo 
venutasi a creare tra le due genti nemiche a confronto. Carlo Magno, 
spada di Dio, vorrebbe soccorrere il papa Adriano messo in gravi 
difficoltà dai Longobardi, ma è bloccato, con tutto l'esercito franco, ai 
confini d'Italia. Le truppe longobarde, infatti, da favorevoli posizioni 
strategiche, presidiano le Chiuse, unico valico conosciuto. 

Il diacono ravennate Martino, su invito del proprio vescovo, parte 
alla volta delle Alpi. Scoperto con l'aiuto della Provvidenza un nuovo 
passaggio, lo rivela a Carlo il quale può così aggirare gli stupitissimi 
uomini di Desiderio e Adelchi, disperderli, e penetrare nel cuore della 
"bella Italia". 

La tensione poetica del resoconto che Martino fa a Carlo del proprio 
viaggio ci sembra paragonabile solo a quella dei passaggi più riusciti 
del coro di Ermengarda e trae maggiore risalto dal fatto di essere 
inserita quale digressione nella serie estremamente serrata degli 
eventi della tragedia. 

Dunque il diacono Martino e Renzo "povero pellegrino" come 
personaggi con un obiettivo stabilito (l'accesso all'accampamento di 
Carlo, il fiume Adda) e con un itinerario sconosciuto. Lasciato a Dio. 
Sono accomunati da un passaggio che significa salvezza. Qui 
sembrerebbero finire le analogie: la salvezza personale dello 
sfortunato e imprudente Renzo avrebbe poco da spartire con la 


salvezza di ben più ampio orizzonte che l'impresa di Martino rende 
possibile a favore della Chiesa e del suo Pastore. In realtà questa 
osservazione risulterà, nella valutazione critica dei due episodi, poco 
rilevante. Rilevanti sono invece le componenti profondamente 
spirituali e religiose comuni ai due viaggi. 

Martino rischia la vita per giungere a Carlo "salvator di Roma". 
Tocca e si lascia alle spalle il campo dei feroci nemici: 

Dio gli accecò, Dio mi guidò. Dai campo 
inosservato uscii; l'orme ripresi 
poco innanzi calcate; indi alla manca 
piegai verso aquilone, e abbandonando 
i battuti sentieri, in un'angusta 
oscura valle m'internai 

(vv. 167-172) 

e nel suo viaggio Dio è sempre presente: 

Le vie di Dio son molte, 
più assai di quelle del mortai, risposi; 
e Dio mi manda. -E Dio ti scorga, ei disse 

(vv. 186-188) 

un giogo ascesi 
e in Dio fidando, lo varcai 

(vv. 194-195) 
Il compimento della sua impresa rappresenta, secondo uno schema 
tipicamente cristiano, la risoluzione provvidenziale-miracolosa di una 
crisi. Lo sottolineano esplicitamente i versi finali dell'episodio e in 
particolare la reazione di Carlo: 

il guardo 
lanciai giù nella valle, e vidi... oh! vidi 
le tende d'Israello, i sospirati 
padiglion di Giacobbe: al suol prostrato. 
Dio ringraziai, li benedissi, e scesi. 

Empio colui che non vorrà la destra 
qui riconoscer dell'Eccelso! 

(vv. 252-258) 


Tra l'entrata nell'oscura valle e l'ampia visione finale (in chiave 
biblica) dell'accampamento carolingio, il Manzoni costruisce 
l'episodio di Martino usando efficacemente gli elementi eccelsi del 
paesaggio alpino. 

Anche Renzo ha rischiato la vita. Si è lasciato alle spalle una città 
colma d'insidie. Si è messo in cammino nella pianura e dentro se 
stesso: "Andava dunque dove la strada lo conduceva; e pensava" (p. 
291). La sua crisi, che ha toccato il fondo all'osteria della Luna Piena, 
con il trionfo della dismisura, dell'eccesso e con la dimenticanza di Dio, 
viene risolvendosi proprio nel corso della fuga verso il bergamasco. E' 
interessante che il suo viaggio, tra l'altro itinerario nella profondità 
della coscienza, abbia come meta immediata le acque dell'Adda, la voce 

E' stato detto che il XVII è il capitolo della catarsi, della rinascita 
spirituale di Renzo: "E' una vera e propria catarsi che si opera in 
Renzo attraverso l'esame dei suoi rapporti con le persone amate, un 
esame che si conclude nel pensiero fiducioso dell'abbandono alla 
volontà di Dio.. .11 concludersi della rinascita spirituale di Renzo è 
inquadrato da alcune fondamentali coordinate temporali e spaziali, 
tradotte in impressioni uditive e visive di una straordinaria 
suggestività, che, riprendendo armonicamente le emozioni su cui è 
tramata l'intera vicenda della sua crisi e della sua redenzione.. .creano 
un ambiente trepido di significati, di arcane allusioni ad una misteriosa 
presenza religiosa"^. L'Adda sembra come fornire l'acqua per il 
battesimo di questa rinascita e, in Renzo, la spirale di esaltazione 
emotiva sale da amico a fratello a salvatore (si veda più sotto l'intera 
citazione del passo). 

All'inizio del capitolo Renzo, come Martino, prende a sinistra 
lasciando la strada maestra. Va incontro al buio della notte così come il 
diacono s'inoltrava nell'oscurità della valle: "Quantunque, nel 
momento che usciva di Gorgonzola, scoccassero le ventiquattro, e le 
tenebre che venivano innanzi, diminuissero sempre più que' pericoli, 
ciò non ostante prese contro voglia la strada maestra.. .Ben presto vide 
aprirsi una straducola a mancina; e v'entrò" (p. 291). Seguono le 
diverse sequenze del viaggio e, finalmente, trovato non solo l'Adda ma 
lì presso un rifugio per la notte, Renzo innalza, come Martino alla fine 
dell'impresa, una preghiera di ringraziamento: "Prima però di 


sdraiarsi su quel letto che la Provvidenza gli aveva preparato, vi 
s'inginocchiò, a ringraziarla di quel benefizio, e di tutta l'assistenza che 
aveva avuta da essa, in quella terribile giornata. Disse poi le sue solite 
divozioni" (p. 295). Un ultimo esame di coscienza, ultimi chiaroscuri 
nell'anima, "una treccia nera e una barba bianca" (p. 296) e finalmente 
l'abbandono alla volontà di Dio: "quel che Dio vuole. Lui sa quel che fa: 
c'è anche per noi" (p. 297). 

Le considerazioni fatte sinora pertengono in buona parte alla 
macrostruttura dei due episodi, ma é proprio nella microcomposizione 
del tessuto testuale che possiamo rintracciare una rete di somiglianze, 
di concordanze tra gli episodi in questione. E ciò pur trattandosi di 
viaggi di così diversa durata: alcuni giorni quello di Martino, alcune ore 
quello di Renzo. 

Procedendo nel raffronto testuale ci riferiremo con M all'episodio di 
Martino e con R a quello di Renzo. 

In M il viaggiatore s'imbatte in "gregge erranti e /a^«n" in un luogo 
che risulta essere "l'ultima stanza de' mortali" (vv. 175-176). Più 
avanti si osserverà "Qui nulla / traccia d'uomo apparia" (vv. 195-196). 

In R il viaggiatore a sua volta giunge in prossimità di "qualche 
cascina isolata" e prosegue il cammino arrivando "dove la campagna 
coltivata moriva in una sodaglia sparsa di felci e di scope". Non ci sono 
più viti, gelsi, "né altri segni di coltura umana" (p. 293). Tanto M 
quanto R sono improntati dal senso di una indeterminatezza spaziale, 
del trascorrere del tempo sopra questa indeterminatezza, del 
turbamento che provoca ciò che è sconosciuto e inesplorato. I passi 
seguenti mostrano in questo ambito interessanti sviluppi psicologici: 
in entrambi M e R, lo spazio dell'inconscio si espande nello spazio 
fisico che avvolge il personaggio. 

M: "Oltre quei monti / sono altri monti... ed altri ancora... lontano 
lontan... e mille son que' monti... inabitati / se non da spirti ed uomo 
mortai giammai / non li varcò" (vv. 180-186). 

R: "Cammina, cammina,... ma ancora invano... e siccome nella sua 
mente cominciavano a suscitarsi certe immagini, certe apparizioni, 
lasciatevi in serbo dalle novelle sentite raccontar da bambino, così, per 
discacciarle, o per acquietarle, recitava, camminando, dell'orazioni per 
i morti" (p. 293). 


Dunque, mentre il discorso riportato dal diacono Martino (un 
pastore gli sta indicando, vagamente, la via) s'impernia sulla 
descrizione di un paesaggio ostile, impraticabile, "impossibile", e nella 
evocazione di generici "spirti", per il giovane e fondamentalmente 
ingenuo Renzo vengono chiamati in causa spaventi legati a fantasie 

Riproducendo le voci della natura, R concentra in unità "lo stesso 
scrosciar delle foglie secche" (p. 293) due elementi, lo scrosciare e i 
secchi suoni vegetali che in M hanno vita figurativa distinta: "e ad ora 
ad ora / lo scrosciar dei torrenti. ..o, sul meriggio,/ tocchi dal sole, 
crepitar del pino / silvestre i coni" (vv. 199-205). In entrambi i testi le 
voci della natura subiscono una elevazione espressiva del volume 
fonico, rispetto alla realtà del fenomeno descritto (scrosciare di foglie, 
invece di frusciare, crepitare dei coni). L'espressione è cosi ampliata ed 
esaltata perché oltre al brivido fisico oggettivo, lo scrosciare deve 
indicare anche l'incorporarsi di un brivido non fisico nella sensazione 
e, a vicenda quindi, l'installarsi della fisicità nello sgomento. Per 
conseguenza di questa ibridazione fisio-psicologica il momento 
successivo, in entrambi i testi, espande l'idea dell'incertezza nel 
cammino con una notazione che pertiene al sentimento. Perdersi 
affatto non è forse da intendere come superlativo di perdersi (che 
dovrebbe essere assoluto) ma come un suo modale (sentiva, tremava di 
perdersi); ad affatto in M corrisponde pur, con analogo valore 

In questa sequenza abbiamo in M la visione delle montagne 

altre più eccelse cime, innanzi, intorno 
sovrastavanmi ancora; altre, di neve 
da sommo ad imo biancheggianti 

(vv. 214-216) 

Queste cime sono un elemento che si collega alla sequenza delle voci 
della natura in R dove si trasformano in cime di alberi "cime 
leggermente agitate" (p. 293) e il loro biancheggiare anticipa la "gran 
macchia biancastra" che è Bergamo all'occhio del viaggiatore nella 
sequenza che avvia la conclusione di R (p. 294). 

Nella sequenza del ritrovamento vero e proprio la critica non ha 
mancato di rilevare una musicalità comune agli istanti del 


ritrovamento dell'Adda in R e della scoperta del campo di Carlo in M^ 
In realtà si tratta di qualcosa di più: di puntuale coincidenza di elementi 
testuali. Vediamo come si organizza, in una identica successione di due 
tipi di percezioni, senso dell'udito e senso della vista, il movimento di 
ciascuna sequenza. 

Si parte da una specie di preparazione fisico-spirituale. Martino, 
dopo una buona notte di sonno, si rimette in cammino con nuova 
speranza e nuovo vigore: "e pieno / di novello vigor la costa ascesi" 
(vv. 232-233). Anche Renzo, poi che reagisce positivamente da un lato 
alla spossatezza fisica "e spegnervi quell'ultimo rimasuglio di vigore" 
(p. 294) e dall'altro al terrore del buio, della solitudine e del suo stesso 
smarrimento, prova nuovo vigore di spirito: "richiamò al cuore gli 
antichi spiriti, e gli comandò che reggesse. Così rinfrancato un 
momento" (p. 294). 

Si viene, quindi, al primo dei due momenti percettivi, quello uditivo. 

Appena il sommo ne toccai, l'orecchio 

mi percosse un ronzio che di lontano 

parea venir, cupo, incessante; io stetti, 

ed immoto ascoltai. Non eran l'acque 

rotte fra i sassi in giù; non era il vento 

che investia le foreste, e, sibilando 

d'una in altra scorrea, ma veramente 

un rumor di viventi, un indistinto 

suon di favelle e d'opre e di pedate 

brulicanti da lungi, un agitarsi 

d'uomini immenso. Il cor balzommi; e il passo 


(vv. 234-245) 


E stando così fermo, sospeso il fruscio de' piedi nel fogliame, tutto 
tacendo d'intorno a lui, cominciò a sentire un rumore, un mormorio, un 
mormorio d'acqua corrente. Sta in orrecchi; n'é certo; esclama: -è 
l'Adda!- Fu il ritrovamento d'un amico, d'un fratello, d'un salvatore. La 
stanchezza quasi scomparve, gli tornò il polso, sentì il sangue scorrer 
libero e tepido per tutte le vene, sentì crescer la fiducia de' pensieri e 
svanire in gran parte quell'incertezza e gravità delle cose; e non esitò a 
internarsi sempre più nel bosco, dietro all'amico rumore. 

(p. 294) 





l'orecchio / mi percosse... 
stetti, ed immoto ascoltai 

un ronzio. ..un rumor di viventi, 
un indistinto suon 
di favelle ...brulicanti 


E stando così fermo... cominciò 
a sentire... Sta in orecchi 

un rumore, un mormorio, un 
mormorio d'acqua corrente 

il cor balzommi 

e il passo accelerai 

(E' da rilevare come l'acqua 
corrente di R compaia per 
negazione in M: "Non eran l'acque" 
assieme ad immagini liquide: "d'una 
in altra scorrea ") 

gli tornò il polso, sentì il 

e non esitò a internarsi sempre 
più nel bosco 

Si giunge cosi al momento nel quale è determinante e risolutrice la 
percezione ottica. 


Su questa, o re, che a noi 
sembra di qui lunga ed acuta cima 
fendere il ciel, quasi affilata scure, 
giace un'ampia pianura, e d'erbe è folta 
non mai calcate in pria. Presi di quella 
il più breve tragitto: ad ogni istante 
si fea il rumor più presso: divorai 
l'estrema via: giunsi sull'orlo: il guardo 
lanciai giù nella valle, e vidi. ..oh! vidi 


(vv. 245-253) 

Arrivò in pochi momenti all'estremità del piano, sull'orlo d'una riva 
profonda; e guardando in giù tra le macchie che tutta la rivestivano, vide 
l'acqua luccicare e correre. Alzando poi lo sguardo, vide il vasto piano 
dell'altra riva, sparso di paesi, e al di là i colli, e sur uno di quelli una gran 
macchia biancastra, che gli parve dover esser una città, Bergamo 

(p. 294) 



Confrontiamo ancora. 

un'ampia pianura 

e d'erbe è folta 

divorai / l'estrema via 

giunsi sull'orlo 

il guardo / lanciai giù 

vidi. ..oh! vidi 


all'estremità del piano... 
il vasto piano 

tra le macchie che tutta la 

Arrivò in pochi momenti 
all'estremità del piano 

sull'orlo d'una riva profonda 

e guardando in giù 

vide l'acqua. ..vide il vasto piano 

Siamo ancora una volta in presenza di coincidenze testuali che ci 
pongono, tra l'altro, il problema del meccanismo mentale del Manzoni 
nei confronti di questa particolare materia. 

Ci sembra che gli esempi riportati siano sufficienti a caratterizzare 
M e R nelle loro connessioni; e se la natura della nostra indagine cerca 
di essere anche microscopica, non è detto che strumenti critici di 
maggiore precisione non possano individuare altri esempi. Potremmo 
proporre all'attenzione un confronto tra i due giacigli rustici di M ( vv. 
278-231) e di R (p. 295) ed altri luoghi ancora. Tuttavia, piuttosto che 
procedere nell'analisi, è forse opportuno, a questo punto, trarre 
qualche conclusione. 

Gli episodi di Martino sulle Alpi e di Renzo in prossimità dell'Adda 
ci presentano due casi di viaggio-salvezza (non possono non venire 
alla mente antecedenti di sacra scrittura: il viaggio dei Magi, la fuga in 
Egitto, e pratiche religiose come la processione e il pellegrinaggio) a 
forte componente spirituale e religiosa. 

Il raffronto degli episodi evidenzia il ricorso, da parte dell'autore, a 
comuni sequenze ed elementi testuali. E' un uso per così dire liturgico 
che il Manzoni fa dei propri oggetti testuali, come se ripetesse 
momenti rituali di una cerimonia: una certa successione, certi 
strumenti, atteggiamenti, colori, parole e suoni, al momento di trattare 
un certo tipo da viaggio investito di un valore quasi sacramentale 
all'interno dell'opera. 


Andiamo per un attimo al già di sfuggita citato capitolo Vili dei 
Promessi Sposi. Anche qui una fuga, un viaggio verso la salvezza. Più 
accorato che spirituale, vibrante per nostalgico struggimento e non 
improntato a risoluzione catartica o miracolosa, portatore di una crisi 
che non si risolve immediatamente, questo episodio (il congedo 
panoramico dalla patria, sulla barca che scende silenziosa) può essere 
solo parzialmente collegato a quelli già presi in esame. Riconsideriamo 
tuttavia, in esso, il tanto celebrato "Addio, monti" nella sua prima 

Addio, monti sorgenti dall'acque, ed elevati al cielo; cime inuguali, note 
a chi è cresciuto tra voi, e impresse nella sua mente, non meno che lo sia 
l'aspetto de'suoi più familiari; torrenti, de' quali distingue lo scroscio, 
come il suono delle voci domestiche; ville sparse e biancheggianti sul 
pendìo, come branchi di pecore pascenti: addio! 

(p. 143) 

Facilmente saltano all'occhio alcuni oggetti della liturgia 
manzoniana del viaggio: le cime (qui di montagne come in M e non di 
alberi come in R), l'effetto fonico dello scrosciare, il biancheggiare di 
un particolare elemento del paesaggio "ville sparse e biancheggianti 
sul pendìo come branchi di pecore pascenti", qui in congiunzione con 
un altro elemento già presente in M: "Qui scorsi / gregge erranti" (vv. 
174-175). E' chiaro che la presenza sporadica di questi elementi non 
aggiunge molto al blocco compatto formato da M e da R. Si tratta di 
una conferma non decisiva di una certa fissità formulare delle scelte 
manzoniane nell'ambito di una materia. Chi volesse, però, tentare uno 
studio più esauriente ed articolato del nostro, non dovrebbe trascurare 
questo brano. 

In ogni caso andrà sempre tenuto presente il dato della vicinanza 
cronologica tra la composizione dell' Adelchi e le stesure del romanzo 
{Fermo e Lucia e primi Promessi Sposi). 

Dunque, la fissità formulare, liturgica, di cui abbiamo parlato, 
sembra suggerire una risonanza assoluta che il tema del viaggio doveva 
avere nell'animo del Manzoni. 

A questo punto potrebbe venire la tentazione di affermare che 
l'elevazione a potenza della dimensione spirituale e salvifica del 
viaggio deve per forza collegarsi alla visione cristiana della 
transitorietà dell'esperienza terrena (l'anima pellegrina sulla terra); 


all'immagine del cristiano tutto rivolto e incamminato verso i "floridi 
sentier della speranza" e i "campi eterni". Ipotesi attraente ma 
difficilmente dimostrabile. Sarà bene, quindi, non spingersi troppo 
oltre se non si vorrà correre il rischio di imitare, nella sua balda e 
ciarliera imprudenza, il Renzo del "debol parere" e della Luna Piena. 


Le citazioni testuali sono tratte per / Promessi Sposi dall'ediz. a cura di A. Chiari e F. 
Ghisalberti, 3a ed., Milano, 1963. Per Adelchi dall'ediz. a cura di R. Bacchelli, Milano- 
Napoli, 1953. 

1. G. Getto, Letture manzoniane. Firenze, 1964, p. 271 

2. G. Getto, Op.ctt., pp. 279-280 

3. A. Manzoni, / Promessi Sposi, commento critico di L. Russo, nuova ed., 2a 
ristampa, p. 321, nota 133-138. 

at UCLA, 1970-80 

As a bibliographical reference, Carte Italiane is including the foUowing list 
of dissertations in Italian Studies completed at UCLA through the 
departments of Italian and Comparative Literature from 1970 to 1980. 

This section of the journal will be supplemented in future volumes by the 
addition of dissertation summaries. We hope that this bibliographical 
information will prove useful to students and scholars of Italian Studies 


Dutschke, Dennis, A Study of Petrarch's Canzone XXIII from First to Final 

Version: Codice Vaticano latino 5196 - Codice Vaticano latino 3193 

director, Predi Chiappelli, 1976. 
Marino, Lucia Maria, Allusion, Allegory, and Iconology in the Decameron 

Cornice: Boccaccio's Allegorical Case for a Humanistic Theory of 

Literature, director, Marga Cottino-Jones, 1977, e. 1978. 
Moran, Sue Ellen, Aspects of Social Reform in Jacopone's Poetry, director, 

Marga Cottino-Jones 1976. 
Paasonen, Alno, Dante at the Turning Point: The Canzone "Tre Donne 

Intorno al Cor Mi Son Venute" as a New Key to the Commedia, director, 

Arnold Band, 1976. 
Ruttar, Itala, Narrative Technique and Ideology in the Decameron and the 

Heptameron, director, Marga Cottino-Jones, 1977. 
White, Laura, Apuleio e Boccaccio: Caratteri Differenziali nella Struttura 

Narrativa del Decameron, director. Predi Chiappelli, 1974. 




Baca, Murtha, Aretino in Venice 1527-1357 and "La Professione del Far 

Lettere," director, Marga Cottino-Jones, 1978. 
Braghieri, Paolo, Gerusalemme Liberata: Il Testo come Soluzione Rituale, 

director. Predi Chiappelli, 1974. 
DeNardo, Vincenzo Enrico, Tasso a Roma; Il Mondo Creato, director. Predi 

Chiappelli, 1976. 
Lawton, Benjamin, Studi sugli Scritti di Governo del Machiavelli, director, 

Predi Chiappelli, 1976. 
Perretta, Pasquale, La Mandragola: Critica, Datazione e Genesi, director, 

Predi Chiappelli, 1978. 
Pierce, Glenn Palen, Theater and Society in 17 th Century Milan: The 

Development of the Baroque Influence in the Works of Carlo Maria 

Maggi, director, Marga Cottino-Jones, 1977 e. 1978. 
Santi, Victor, La Giona nelle Opere de Nicolo' Machiavelli, director. Predi 

Chiappelli, 1975. 
Weaver, Elisa, Francesco Berni's Rifacimento of Boiardo's Orlando 

Innamorato director. Predi Chiappelli, 1975. 


Baldini, Pier Raimondo, Noviziato di Vasco Pratolini ed Elio Vittorini, 1930- 

1936, director, Giovanni Cecchetti, 1976. 
Del Antonelli, Karen, Marinetti: from Manifesto to Machine Gun: A 

Comprehensive of ali Works of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti from 1909- 

1916, director, Giovanni Cecchetti, 1979. 
De Luca, Raffaele, La Poesia Giovanile di Ugo Foscolo e I Suoi Rapporti con 

L'Opera della Maturità', director. Predi Chiappelli, 1976. 
McKenna, Irene, The Grotesque in the Early Novels of Sherwood Anderson 

and Luigi Pirandello, director, Prederick Burwick, 1978. 
Muratore, Salvatore, La Poetica di Eugenio Montale, director, Giovanni 

Cecchetti, 1979.